I started out my class with hope. Hope that the books we'd read in class would be interesting. And W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil gave me that hope.
Apparently, Maugham--which is apparently pronounced "Mom"--is or was a pretty famous writer back in the 1920s. That was a hundred years ago. Dang. It feels like it should be closer to eighty. Anyway, this particular book is also set in the 1920s, but the issues it deals with are relevant today. Because romance and revenge are always relevant.
Right off the bat, we meet English socialite Kitty Fane and her lover, Charlie Townsend. And we realize that Kitty's husband, shy and boring but super-nice-guy Walter, knows what's going on.
Now as if that wasn't exciting enough, Walter gives Kitty an ultimatum: she can convince Charlie to divorce his own wife and marry her, or she can come with him to a cholera outbreak in the Chinese city of Mei-tan-fu. (Walter, unlike Kitty, has a decent reason to go to Mei-tan-fu. He's a bacteriologist. And I should specify that they're living in Hong Kong, which was under British control at that time.)
Since Charlie is too selfish to divorce his wife, Kitty goes with Walter. And there she learns that maybe, just maybe, life isn't all about her.
I devoured this book. The characters were lively, the narrative was paced well, and there were some good themes explored. I especially like the way Maugham dealt with religion. After arriving in Mei-tan-fu, Kitty starts to volunteer at a convent that takes in orphans. The nuns inspire her, and their faith is portrayed in a positive light. That being said, while the nuns encourage Kitty to seek God, they don't force their religion on her. And this, I believe, is how all Christians should witness to other people.
The book isn't very funny. There's some romantic drama involved, but not much actual love. But somehow, it's still a good book that managed to capture my attention. I think I finished it in two or three days, which is more than I can say for the Hemmingway novel...
What's your favorite classic novel? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.