Monday, March 1, 2021

W. Somerset Maugham - The Painted Veil

I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. Not that I thought it would be boring, or any slight against Maugham at all. I just had already seen the (2006) film and I did not think there would be any surprises. I know, I know. Never judge a book by its movie!

All this being said, Maugham writes the most beautiful prose. Besides being a really good story...about wrongs, love, and loss, he evokes so much beauty and depth in his writing. The passages he writes about life really resonated with me. I will share two of them...
"It seemed to Kitty that they were all, the human race, like the drops of water in that river and they flowed on, each so close to the other and yet so far apart, a nameless flood, to the sea. When all things lasted so short a time and nothing mattered very much, it seemed pitiful that men, attaching an absurd importance to trivial objects, should make themselves and one another so unhappy."


"I wonder. I wonder if it matters that what they have aimed at is illusion. Their lives are in themselves beautiful. I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art."


This is a short book (246 pages), but it packs a lot of punch. I'm so glad I read it!

This is a Classics Club read and also read for the 2021 Back to the Classics challenge.

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  1. I love this book and anything Maugham has written. But this is my favourite.

  2. I'm glad you shared this post -- I hadn't picked up this book because I thought I wouldn't "see" anythign different from the movie -- but your reflection has reminded me to be less judgy! I'll add this to my TBR.

  3. I enjoyed it so much more than I expected as well. You picked two wonderful quotes, but honestly, you could have opened the book at random and picked any passage, and I would have swooned. I just acquired a few other Maughams for my TBR shelf.

  4. As for the movies of The Painted Veil --with Naomi Watts, superb production values, excellent acting. The Garbo version is worthless unless you are a Garbo fan. As for his other novels, one nobody reads, The Narrow Corner, is quite good and the one everybody reads, The Razor’s Edge, is wonderful. I’ve never read the other one everybody reads, Of Human Bondagem but I’ve read lots of them nobody reads anymore. Irony!

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