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Extended Audio Sample The Painted Veil Audiobook, by W. Somerset Maugham Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (12,925 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: W. Somerset Maugham Narrator: Kate Reading Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781455185016
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Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, this beautifully written character study is an affirmation of the human capacity to grow, change, and forgive. The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but shallow young Kitty Fane, who marries for money rather than love. When her husband, a quiet doctor, discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to a remote region of China ravaged by a cholera epidemic. There, stripped of the British society of her youth and overwhelmed by the desolation around her, Kitty’s conscience begins to awaken. As she takes up work with children at a convent and experiences some of the burden her husband has taken on, she and her husband begin to rediscover each other in a new light. When her husband is tragically killed, Kitty is forced to return to England to raise her unborn child. Though it is too late for her marriage, she has learned humility, independence, and at last, how to love.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Painted Veil, with its sadness, its moral tension, its irony and compassion, its building evocations of lust and terror and remorse, is a work of art.”

    Spectator

  • “Kate Reading does a phenomenal portrayal of Kitty, progressively evolving her weaknesses into real character strengths by way of hardship, loss, and regret. She creates the aura of a full-cast production, switching effortlessly between characters…Elegant and thoughtful, Reading is a performance pro.”

    AudioFile

  • “Reading’s narration conveys the novel’s irony and cynicism. Her pitch is perfect, and her tone, rhythm, and intonation match the plot and the era. Reading conveys the feeling of a stuffy tea party set among smug guests. Kitty is at once self-absorbed and reflective, while Walter is both restrained and simmering.”

    Booklist

  • “Reading’s narration uses only two voices—one male and one female—but her intelligent, expressive performance makes her characters of either gender most convincing. She fully captures the irony that defines Kitty.” 

    Kliatt

  • “The portrait of Kitty Fane is one of Maugham’s finest fictional achievements. As with Bertha Craddock more than twenty years before, he displays an extraordinary empathy, an ability to create a woman as seen not from a man’s perspective but from that of the woman herself.”

    Selina Hastings, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham

  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hey_jude | 2/18/2014

    " It was an easy read and I have to say I expected a little more plot wise. But It was good all in all. Short but sweet. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Em | 2/17/2014

    " I imagine I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it before watching the movie. The movie followed the book very well and added a bit more depth to the main characters, so it felt like something was missing. I still enjoyed the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 April Krajewski | 2/16/2014

    " I enjoyed this book but I loved the movie much more. I found the characters hard to like in this book. Was surprised by how quickly it read. If you read it, definitely treat yourself to the movie afterward. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 lcap | 2/13/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book and Kitty's journey to redemption. However, I have to say that this might be the one book I've come across where the movie is actually better. I found Maugham's Edward incredibly stubborn and emotionally immature, and not very appealing as a result. I loved how the two characters came back together in the movie, which unfortunately does not happen in the book. However, I still enjoyed Maugham's depictions of early 20th century British expatriate society in Hong Kong. It's a decent read for those who like historical fiction and this period in particular. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wilberforce | 2/12/2014

    " It was the first of his books I have read. I did like his use of words - certainly stood out for me. I saw the film first and when I finished the book I was not overly impressed with the ending. However upon reflection I think it had a deeper meaning than is immediately obvious. I think the message was that she had changed deeply. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ape | 2/10/2014

    " This was such a great read. It has to be my favourite Maugham book by far that I've read to date. Such a fascinating story with characters that are flawed and realistic, plots that are like life without getting twee or sentimental. Just really great stuff. So many interesting people in this story. I have to say I think my favourite was the odd little customs fella, Waddington, that I liked the best. His outlook on life and how he viewed the world and the people in it, not taking things too seriously. And the transformation of Kitty, as she grows a conscience, empathy and a personality, really pulls the book together. She does start off as quite vacuous and self-involved; only being interested in people for what they can do for her. I suppose she is her mother's daughter. She marries Walter Fane, simply because her younger sister had gotten engaged and Kitty wanted to be married before her. But she doesn't love Walter (and I like the fact that she never does, despite all that happens - because confessions of love later on would have smacked of a guilty conscience rather than love) but lives with him as he can provide, get her out of her life and away to Hong Kong. And it's here that she gets a taste of her own medicine, falling heavily for Charles Townsend - married and in his forties - who is quite happy to have a fling with her as a pasttime, but when push comes to shove won't leave his wife and his cushy lifestyle. Walter finds out about the affair, is heartbroken, but has his revenge on her - taking her up into the wilds of China to work at this little town where there is a cholera epidemic. And it's here in all the death and misery that she starts to find herself. I liked the ending as well, where we see how she can really put herself in someone else's shoes and start to make a real connection. You don't find out how it all works out in Barbados, but I hope it worked out well for her. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 2/10/2014

    " I read the book because I wanted to see the movie. I always like to compare them :) It's in my Netflex Que.. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jolinda Van | 2/8/2014

    " This is the story of a silly and shallow young woman (Kitty) who marries a man to increase her social status and after moving with him to Hong Kong becomes embroiled in an affair with one of his superiors. After he (Walter) finds out about the affair, he blackmails her into going with him to a village where there is a cholera epidemic. She reassess her life and her vanities and begins to see herself and others in a new light. I loved this book and it's characters. I'm a Maugham fan anyway, but this is a wonderful book for anyone who is human. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tino | 2/8/2014

    " Another Maugham masterpiece. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jules | 2/5/2014

    " Subtler, but surprisingly less enjoyable than the movie. (It might have been the absence of Norton. And not so much dramatic tension.) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline | 1/27/2014

    " Good story about morality and justice. Although the plot (quite melodramatic) is far-fetched, it doesn't come off as too preachy or too well-tied-up. Kitty's character really develops and changes with the story, and she realizes the error of her ways, only to be tested a few more times. The ending, while not a complete shocker, was not what I expected it to be, and the circular motion of the plot (well, a spiral, really) was quite nice. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ronit | 1/20/2014

    " the film was enjoyable "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Evelien | 1/15/2014

    " I read this book AFTER I saw the movie and that was my biggest mistake, because yes, the movie IS better, especially at the end, where the plot of the movie and the book are miles apart. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amber | 1/13/2014

    " It was well written, and I absolutely didn't expect the events that transpired. But I don't think it would be in my favorites. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenn | 1/8/2014

    " under rating this because the movie was better. more resolution and ending was perfect in movie. still really enjoyed it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tevilla | 1/5/2014

    " Very interesting book. Sentence structure sometimes puzzled me and the story line superficial but interesting all the same. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Daisy | 1/2/2014

    " So in love with the writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erik Simon | 12/28/2013

    " Maugham makes storytelling seem as easy as drinking water. How nice to read a novel that doesn't shy from plot, that contains a protagonist who encounters a deep psychic change without the assistance of a therapist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alisha | 12/20/2013

    " Again, one of the few instances where the movie is better than the book. Call me crazy, but I enjoy it better when the chick actually falls in love withe guy she's married to. I'm traditional like that. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 James | 12/19/2013

    " Nice guys finish last and die of cholera. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sara | 12/19/2013

    " The movie was actually better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Narendra Simone | 12/7/2013

    " Great characters development and a must for your shelf if you're an aspiring author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Roxie | 11/19/2013

    " I couldn't *quite* give this four stars. There were many beautiful passages and observations, but I never felt very attached to the story or characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lucy Allen | 11/16/2013

    " Beautiful book, Somerset Maugham is a master of character development. Excellent read... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katie | 11/6/2013

    " What a fabulous book. The depth and honesty of the characters' emotions was refreshing and enlightening. It reminded me what an amazing writer Maugham is. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andreea | 10/15/2013

    " This book is for the gooey-eyed people. I'm one of them:) To love somebody so much then to see she's a shallow,cheating partner for life...that's the melodrama we all basically love. But Maugham goes well beyond that, and this makes him a very good writer. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amara | 10/12/2013

    " I was just so disappointed in all of the characters. Hard to live with them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 9/16/2013

    " Ehh. It was okay. I guess it was a movie...I'm curious to see how that went. Hmmmm.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Penny | 8/19/2013

    " Tragic story of love, revenge and learning to find meaning in life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Suzanne | 5/12/2013

    " This is the book that I'm currently recommending to everyone I know. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 4/23/2013

    " The audio CD is really well read. The woman reader does an excellent job with the male voices. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debflowers7 | 2/1/2013

    " Good writing, good characters "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jules | 12/29/2012

    " Subtler, but surprisingly less enjoyable than the movie. (It might have been the absence of Norton. And not so much dramatic tension.) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 11/17/2012

    " I quite enjoyed reading "The Painted Veil". I liked it more than I liked Maugham's "Razor's Edge" which I read earlier this year. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charles Finch | 11/6/2012

    " Immensely readable, a bit pat in the end. As often with Maugham a superb description of a second-rate careerist (just like Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gregandemy | 5/7/2012

    " A well written, easy read. I had watched the movie first and enjoyed it, but liked the book better (as usual). The book gave more insights into the characters and actually had a different ending then the movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paula | 4/2/2012

    " A good story told well. Can't ask for much more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rey Walker | 2/19/2012

    " Maugham's skill in capturing the layers of sometimes conflicting yet very human emotions, thoughts, and deeds is amazing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenn | 10/26/2011

    " under rating this because the movie was better. more resolution and ending was perfect in movie. still really enjoyed it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah Marsh | 10/8/2011

    " Interesting book, but didn't play out at all as I expected. Left me feeling vaguely unfulfilled. Like when you know you ate but it was so unmemorable that you feel almost hungry still...Just okay. Not bad. Not great either. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amber | 8/24/2011

    " It was well written, and I absolutely didn't expect the events that transpired. But I don't think it would be in my favorites. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Meeta | 5/23/2011

    " Very well told story, told with an economy of words. Great depiction of the social mores of the time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paulette | 5/23/2011

    " Touching story about forgiveness, redemption and the ability to grow. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ana | 4/25/2011

    " One of my all time favorites!!! Loved every word of it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hey_jude | 4/7/2011

    " It was an easy read and I have to say I expected a little more plot wise. But It was good all in all. Short but sweet. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leshawn | 4/5/2011

    " I thought Kate Reading did a great job! This Blackstone Audio recording was a treat! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 3/27/2011

    " Impossible to put down. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lisa | 3/21/2011

    " I've seen this movie 3 times and decided to read the book. The book is pretty short and for 3/4 of the book very much like the movie. but the endings are different and I like the movie ending much better. I don't think I would've liked the book had I read it first. the movie is much better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Keely | 3/20/2011

    " Beautifully written. It makes me want to see the movie because the movie seems well regarded by reviewers here. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Qi | 3/15/2011

    " A great book, much better than the movie under the same name. "

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About the Author
Author W. Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) was born in Paris, the son of a British embassy official, and grew up in England. He studied medicine and officially qualified as a doctor before turning to writing. One of the twentieth century’s most popular novelists as well as a celebrated playwright, critic, and short-story writer, he also served as a secret agent for the British during World War I.

About the Narrator

Kate Reading is an Audie Award–winning narrator and has received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. She is also a theater actor in the Washington, DC, area and has been a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since 1987. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, among others. She and her husband live in Hyattsville, Maryland, with their two children.