I have never read anything by Maugham before, but this book is a great incentive to read more. I found this book difficult to put down. The book is deceptively easy to read, yet so much meaning is packed into each sentence.Kitty is raised to be only a pretty woman, with limited skills. She is not taught to use her intellect, but only her looks. She is raised to be selfish by a selfish mother. When Kitty's younger and less attractive sister becomes engaged, Kitty finally decides to marry the next man who asks her. After marriage, the couple leaves for Hong Kong, where they live in isolation from the real world around then. Kitty is bored with her life and her husband. She has an affair, falling in love. When her husband discovers the affair, he volunteers to work in a city that is being devastated by cholera and demands Kitty accompany him. It is the journey into China that changes the way Kitty views life. It is a slow and agony process that leads Kitty into a more meaningful existence.In many ways, Kitty is unworthy of the reader's sympathy and many times I wanted to hit her over the head in frustration. Yet, I grew to admire her as she handles one tragedy after another. This is a must-read for everyone.