The House of Doors
Tan Twan Eng
It is 1921 and at Cassowary House in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Robert Hamlyn is a well-to-do lawyer and his steely wife Lesley a society hostess. Their lives are invigorated when Willie, an old friend of Robert’s, comes to stay.
Willie Somerset Maugham is one of the greatest writers of his day. But he is beleaguered by an unhappy marriage, ill-health and business interests that have gone badly awry. He is also struggling to write. The more Lesley’s friendship with Willie grows, the more clearly she see him as he is – a man who has no choice but to mask his true self.
As Willie prepares to leave and face his demons, Lesley confides secrets of her own, including how she came to know the charismatic Dr Sun Yat Sen, a revolutionary fighting to overthrow the imperial dynasty of China. And more scandalous still, she reveals her connection to the case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in the Kuala Lumpur courts – a tragedy drawn from fact, and worthy of fiction.
From Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Tan Twan Eng, The House of Doors is a masterful novel of public morality and private truth a century ago. Based on real events it is a drama of love and betrayal under the shadow of Empire.
Praise for The Garden of Evening Mists: It is impossible to resist the opening sentence of this sumptuously produced novel . . . it showcases Tan Twan Eng as a master of complexities * * Guardian * * Complex and powerful . . . sophisticated and satisfying * * Sunday Times * * Elegant and atmospheric * * The TImes * * Tantalisingly evocative . . . Suffused with a satisfying richness of colour and character, it still abounds in hidden passageways and occult corners. Mysteries and secrets persist. Tan dwells often on the borderline states, the in between areas, of Japanese art: the archer's hiatus before the arrow speeds from the bow; the patch of skin that a master of the horimono tattoo will leave bare; or the "beautiful and sorrowful" moment "just as the last leaf is about to drop" . . . An elegant and haunting novel of war, art and memory . . . its beauty never comes to rest * * Independent * * A beautiful, dark and wistful exploration of loss and remembrance that will stay with you long after reading * * Daily Telegraph * * With ravishing sensuousness, it conjures up the lush landscapes and tea estates of Malaya during the 1950s Emergency, as reflections on Japanese aesthetic refinements in gardening and art intersect with recollections of Japanese wartime atrocities in a haunting novel about memory * * Sunday TImes * * The layering of historical periods is intricate, the descriptions of highland Malaysia are richly evocative, and the characterisation is both dark and compelling. Guarding its mysteries until the very end, this is a novel of subtle power and redemptive grace -- MAYA JAGGI, chair of the Man Asian Literary Prize judges
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