Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Painted Veil

The book should come with a Health Warning attached - BEWARE IT'S NOT LIKE THE FILM -if you thought the film was sad...
Silly vain Kitty marries stiff, formal Walter because he asked her and she was desperate. Walter takes her back to Hong Kong where he works and within three months she's committing adultery with slimy Charles Townsend, the assistant colonial governor. When Walter discovers their affair he gives Kitty two choices - he will divorce her quietly if Charles Townsend agrees to marry her, or she can come upcountry with him, into a cholera epidemic with the very good chance it will kill her.
Of course slimy Charles will not marry her - it would ruin his career and his reputation - so Kitty, with no other choice travels upcountry with Walter. Into the jaws of death.
And here's where the book and the film diverge.
In the film Kitty and Walter are reconciled; Walter even accepts that she's probably pregnant with Charles Townsend's baby. And when he dies with cholera, she's distraught and by his side.
In the book they are not reconciled - Walter dies, face to the wall, quoting the last line of Goldsmith's An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog - 'the dog it was that died.'

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