“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.
With "The Painted Veil" Maugham presents an intricate study of isolation, appreciation, religion and foreign ways. He also creates a tale of the utter despair and destruction that is love. A story with an abundance of layers, symbols and ethics hidden beneath the most simple language imaginable. Quite an achievement.
Walter is perhaps my favorite person in this novel. Not because he is particularly likable or reasonable - but because he is blinded by love, self-destructing and unconditional love. He cannot bear to lose his Kitty without losing himself as well. I liked the dramatic scenes of confrontation between him and Kitty, and I loved the accompanying scent of vague madness. A lot of this does however hide between the lines, as Walter is repressing every single emotion, and does not allow himself to speak.
Kitty was a bit harder for me to like. Her character is perfectly understandable and well-known, but it doesn't really come to life. She is forever torn between passion and appreciation, lust and duty, and even though she did develop a sweet fascination for religion, she never really managed to see herself clearly.
And this is another critique of the plot: the religious parts felt odd, misplaced and a bit insincere. Most of all, it felt like filling rather than meaning; Kitty could easily have found her conclusion in the seclusion alone.
I also feel like Kitty is living in such a fascinating landscape with death, drama and life raging on around her. I wish Maugham had explored the surroundings more.
“She did not know why it seemed to her so tragic to cry in her sleep.
I am torn, and I am impressed. Maugham's discreet critisicm of women's education and his forceful love example is extraordinarily written. With its many hidden motives and vivid symbolism, this book is quite a gem. The theme is lovely - but the characters and some parts of the plot are not really anything worth speaking about, at all.
I am soon going to watch the movie, and for that I am excited. It looks beautiful.