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The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng


The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng
UK Publication: May 2023
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Canongate (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Two word review – Read this

Synopsis from Goodreads: The anticipated novel from the Booker-shortlisted author, exploring love, betrayal and morality in 1920s Penang.

It is 1921 and at Cassowary House in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Robert Hamlyn is a well-to-do lawyer and his steey 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 sees him as he is – a man who has no choice but to mask his true self.

My Thoughts: This is a beautifully written book which takes real life events and plays with them slightly to fit the story that the author wants to tell. Split into 3 timelines we have the present where Lesley is looking back over her life including her decision to tell her most intimate secret to writer William Somerset Maugham an author known for his use of real life people in his stories, we have the section in 1921 where William Somerset Maugham is staying with Lesley and Robert in Penang and 1910 the story that Lesley tells about her past and the murder trial of a close friend as well as her involvement with Sun Yat Sen a Chinese revolutionary.

While there is a lot going on in this story it is not particularly action driven instead it is a study of relationships, of betrayal and of marriages (happy or otherwise) and centres very much on the characters and the reader’s emotional attachment to them.

My one regret is I will never see the House of Doors as that sounds amazing.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction, anyone with an interest in Malaysia and those who enjoy reading about complicated relationships.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I enjoyed his previous 2 novels. This one promises to be even better. Thanks for review.


    May 23, 2023
  2. I loved it too and I hope he doesn’t make us wait as many years for the next one as he did for this.


    May 25, 2023

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