By: W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
This Maugham classic is set in England and Hong Kong and in a cholera --ridden Chinese village in the 1920's. A committed, principled, epidemiologist, Dr. Fane, falls in love with the beautiful, but vain and foolish, Kitty Garstin. She agrees to marry him only because she wishes to beat her sister to the altar. She soon commits adultery with a British official in Hong Kong, where they have relocated. Dr. Fane decides that she must accompany him to a small village, deep within China, where cholera is rampant; otherwise, he will reveal the betrayal, with grave consequences for all. It appears to be a suicide mission. The story is one of love, of a search for meaning of life, of forgiveness, and of personal growth and change. The inner thoughts of the several characters--especially Kitty--are thoroughly painted by Maugham. The title presumably refers to the veil of illusion that often hides the truth we feel about ourselves. We will not spoil for the reader the surprises that make this a compelling novel.