To start, this is a weird cover, isn't it? It's a potrait of some woman, and from her apparel, I would guess the 1920s, which is when The Painted Veil was written. It mesmorized me; those eyes, her haircut, that bird...I couldn't look away.
Yet I evidently broke the spell and actually opened the book and was surprised by how easy it was to read and that I actually enjoyed it.
Bred with one goal in mind, marriage, Kitty is a bit startled to realize that she's reached her mid-20s, is unmarried and her sister is about to marry a titled lord. She hurriedly chooses one of her suitors, Walter Fane, to marry because he adores her, will be going to the Orient for his job thus sparing her the pain of staying in England to watch her sister's grand wedding...and yeah, those are her reasons.
The marriage is a disaster and Kitty has an affair. Walter figures it out and forces her go with him to a cholera-infested area of China--in hopes that she'll die (or so Kitty believes). Kitty must reckon with herself and who she has become--and what she will do in the future.
This is not a romance, but rather a story of flawed people who make poor decisions--yet they struggle for redemption and hope. I wasn't sure if I would like the story but I did. It's deep without being painful (eg., The Moviegoer) and still manages to present an interesting story.