Monday, January 24, 2011

Book 69: Finished.

"There is only one way to win hearts and that is to make oneself like unto those of whom one would be loved," (179).

I don't know if I can write my final thoughts on a book that has so deeply moved my emotions. I shall try, but I am not making any promises that this post won't be fully of gushing fan-girldom, or mild spoilers (nothing that will ruin the book for you, but I will say a few key plot points that happen within the first 100 pages).

I left off in my first post by saying that after Walter discovered Kitty's affair, he accepted a position working in the middle of the cholera epidemic to treat the illness' victims. Kitty had been an opportunity to go and talk to her lover, Charles. If he agreed to divorce his own wife and take care of her, Walter would let her go. If not, Kitty had to leave with Walter and go into the heart of the epidemic.

It isn't a surprise to the reader when Charles outright rejects her. What more would you really expect from a man who is already married and holds a high government position? I think I would have been shocked had he said, "Yes, Kitty, I will divorce my wife and marry you." I think we all know that if you are silly and stupid enough to have an affair with a married man, he will never leave his wife for you. Why would he? So I knew that Kitty would be traveling with her husband, who now seems to despise her, into the heart of the epidemic.

And you can imagine how much it hurts when, once there, they Fanes befriend another man in town, who knows Charles and his adultrous ways. And while I certainly didn't live Kitty and her unfaithfulness to Walter, it stung me when their new friend Waddington and Kitty have the following conversation about Charles:

"'She doesn't take his flirtations very seriously?'

'Oh, no, she knows they don't go very far. She says she'd like to be able to make friends of the poor little things who fall to Charlie; but they're always so common. She says it's really not very flattering to her that the women who fall in love with her husband are so uncommonly second-rate,'" (101-102).

Ouch, right? To think that this man loved you and would care for you, but to hear an opinion about yourself like that? Ouch.

At first I didn't feel sorry for Kitty. She brought this pain on herself and her husband. By having an affair and being unfaithful, didn't she deserve some kind of pain? But as the novel progresses, and the realities of the epidemic hit Kitty, she begins to grow up. Probably for the first time in her life, she begins to realize that she did wrong. She begins to see that Walter is a good man, too good for her.

"Waddington too thought highly of Walter. She alone had been blind to his merit. Why? Because he loved her and she did not love him. What was it in the human heart that made you despise a man because he loved you?" (125).

Kitty continues to change. Alone, with no one but Walter, she turns to a local convent to find peace in work. She tries to help those around her, and in turn, begins to change herself. The reader can see her struggles to understand what she did, the pain she caused herself and Walter, and we begin to hope for the ending we want. We want peace and happiness for both of them, don't we? We want Kitty to see that she had a great and glorious man in front of her the entire time, and that he is entirely deserving of her love.

"'You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul,'" (138).

I don't want to give away what happens, or the transformation that takes place in Kitty. But I was deeply moved by what happens, and in the manner of Maugham's writing. It is beautiful. If you want to read something that will truly move you down to your core, look no further than this.

"'Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding,'" (206).


  1. It's a shame sometimes that we are constrained from talking about the ending of books in reviews for fear of spoilers. I would love to discuss what you thought of how everything ended up!

  2. awesome review, and i agree with amanda - i'd love to hear what you think about the ending. one of the things i hate about doing reviews is that i always want to talk about the ending, but can't let myself.

    reading your review makes me want to reread this book so badly - but maybe i should head into some other maugham instead. i've been meaning to read "of human bondage" and "the razor's edge" for years.

  3. I love Maugham's books and short stories. I've never read this one, but have seen the movie and it was a beautiful, beautiful one. The acting was wonderful and I've seen it about ten times.

    Is the movie faithful to the book?

    Great review, btw.

    And Amanda, I totally agree with you.

  4. Ellen: Of Human Bondage is on my TBR list too, and I'm definitely getting to it in February.

    The Razor's Edge is one of my all time favorite books and I've reread that one about twenty times over the last decade. Now, it does talk a lot about mysticism and philosophy and many things religion...which is why some people haven't been so fond of this one. But the writing is so beautiful and the characters so finely wrought.

  5. Oh my gosh. YES. I am so glad you loved it, too! YES.

  6. I really didn't like this book. I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the writing style, pretty much nothing moved me. So interesting how we all read books in different ways!

  7. I really should read this book! I saw the movie (the more recent version), and it sounds like the movie followed the book fairly well (based on my memory of it, at least). The movie certainly movingly portrayed the change in Kitty, so if the novel is so beautiful...well, looks like I don't have a choice!