I have to admit I saw the movie before I read the book, and this has to be my 'once in a life time' time that I've preferred a movie to the book. Both, fortunately follow a similar plot, a beautiful love story set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920's.
I found by viewing the movie and reading the book I was able to understand the characters and appreciate the movie by expanding on the books original plot and building up the characters, making them more appealing, in the book I found them a bit snobby and Kitty [the protagonist] nails that part in the movie!
Although the book is beautifully written, I expected a better ending, like the movie, the director was able to sum the movie up with its last scene, showing Kitty rejecting Charles [her former lovers'] advancements when she returns to England with her son, after her husbands death.
At the end of the book I would of preferred a bigger resolution between Kitty and Walter [her husband], but she never loved him making it an even bigger disappointment since I am sure Walter still did. I was annoyed at how quickly after Walter's death Kitty was able to move on with her life and embrace the luxuries of Hong Kong but it showed realism since Kitty had hardly any affection for her husband. Another annoying thing about Kitty throughout the book is that her character never developed, she did not grow to love and accept her family or her husband but continued to be the same whiny person throughout.
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.
Although I was greatly disappointed that Kitty never fell in love with Walter, I was pleased in the end when Kitty told her father that she would raise her daughter to be independent. I found the books message unclear but left me full of hope at the end that she was able to raise her daughter to not turn out like her, self-absorbed and selfish.