But you simply MUST take me seriously. I have a KERCHIEF. And I am DOUR.
Maugham was one of the most popular novelists, playwrights, and man (men?)-about-towns of his time. He wasn't really lauded by critics because his work was simple, especially when compared to the run-on sentences being produced by Woolf and Faulkner at the time. Senor Moustache referred to himself as being "in the first row of the second raters." I mean, hey. At least he was honest about it. Not something we can ever expect Dan Brown to say, AMIRITE? I mean, when compared to the most popular writers of OUR time, this man is a veritable genius! A wordsmith of unforeseen gifts! He wrote The Painted Veil because he was inspired by a stanza of DANTE. Sigh. But we have sparkly vampires. That's something (IT'S NOT SOMETHING).
Anyway, superiority of popular authors of times gone by aside, let us talk The Painted Veil. Much to my bleehhh, I saw the movie first, so I'm sure that's colored my experience of the book. I will say that the movie is a fairly loyal interpretation in that some of the dialogue is word for word. But they CHANGED THE ENDING. If you're going to go through all the trouble of copying the talk talk bits, why would you change the ending?!
Here's why this is so irritating: the book is about Kitty Fane, a silly and vulgar girl who marries a serious man because she hates her mother. They move to China for spoiler-tastic reasons. Cholera happens. Kitty has various realizations, mostly that she is silly and vulgar. She tries to change, fails a bit, succeeds a bit, is very human. We are left hopeful that Kitty has learned how to not suck. In the movie, she is just MAGICALLY BETTER. I sorta feel like this is a betrayal of what Maugham was saying about the difficulty of forgiveness and authenticity and bettering oneself. But hey. Edward Norton makes you better, no?
Anywoot, I can see where Maugham isn't exactly a super genius. He's heavy on the cheese, and isn't exactly subtle. There are a few moments of perfectly clear, insightful, catch-your-breath TRUTH but there are also a lot of bits of lalala HERE'S MY SPIRITUAL MESSAGE IN CASE YOU'RE MISSING IT, READER PERSON. Like many popular writers, his work is easy to read, plot-alicious, and the characters are relatable. There's no experimental fireworks here, but it's nice and you may need a few tissues.
Three stars out of your mom.