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The House of Doors

Tan Twan Eng


This novel is set in Penang in British Malaya in the early 20th century. It is a tribute to Somerset Maugham who features as a guest of a British couple. The novel contains a series of intriguing storylines, written in Maugham’s style, about love, a murder trial and adultery, and along the way the reader learns a lot about where Maugham finds inspiration for his stories. The storylines are intricately interwoven and read as a pleasant Far Eastern tale set during British colonial rule. A special role is played by the house with doors and its magical atmosphere, where two secret lovers meet. Reference is also made to Sun Yat-sen, who is trying to find support for overthrowing the Chinese emperor and who later becomes the first president of the Republic of China. Although the pace is slow, having the story told retrospectively by Lesley, the wife hosting Somerset Maugham, much actually happens or has happened. Tan Twan Eng paints a wonderful world in a highly descriptive style, with beautiful descriptions of tropical nature and the busy life on the streets. The novel feels like a long, warm breeze, with whispers of love and intrigue.


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