The House of Doors

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From the bestselling author
of The Garden of Evening Mists, a spellbinding novel about love and betrayal, colonialism and revolution, storytelling and redemption.

The year is 1921. Lesley Hamlyn and her husband, Robert, a lawyer and war veteran, are living at Cassowary House on the Straits Settlement of Penang. When "Willie" Somerset Maugham, a famed writer and old friend of Robert's, arrives for an extended visit with his secretary Gerald, the pair threatens a rift that could alter more lives than one.

Maugham, one of the great novelists of his day, is beleaguered: Having long hidden his homosexuality, his unhappy and expensive marriage of convenience becomes unbearable after he loses his savings-and the freedom to travel with Gerald. His career deflating, his health failing, Maugham arrives at Cassowary House in desperate need of a subject for his next book. Lesley, too, is enduring a marriage more duplicitous than it first appears. Maugham suspects an affair, and, learning of Lesley's past connection to the Chinese revolutionary, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, decides to probe deeper. But as their friendship grows and Lesley confides in him about life in the Straits, Maugham discovers a far more surprising tale than he imagined, one that involves not only war and scandal but the trial of an Englishwoman charged with murder. It is, to Maugham, a story worthy of fiction.

A mesmerizingly beautiful novel based on real events, The House of Doors traces the fault lines of race, gender, sexuality, and power under empire, and dives deep into the complicated nature of love and friendship in its shadow.

About the Author

Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang and lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, was longlisted for the Man Booker. His second, The Garden of Evening Mists was a major international bestseller, shortlisted for the Man Booker, and winner of the Man Asia Literary Prize and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. It was adapted into an award-winning film in 2019 that was directed by Tom Lin. Twan divides his time between Malaysia and South Africa.

"The House of Doors is brilliantly observed and full of memorable characters. It is so well-written, everything so effortlessly dramatized, the narrative so well structured and paced, that this is a book that will mesmerize readers far into the future." --Colm Tóibín, author of THE MAGICIAN

"Exquisite . . . Tan takes on a behemoth task here: combining sensational fact and intimate fiction in a British colonial Asian setting complicated by white privilege, politics, social hypocrisy, gender inequity, racism, homophobia, and more . . . [He] succeeds in delivering another intricate literary gift." --Booklist, Starred Review

"The narrative dwells on memory and loss, its lush, dreamy prose evoking the bygone days of colonial pre-WWII British Malaya amid musings on life's ephemeral nature, while never losing its eye for injustice . . . This is a stunner." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Expertly constructed, tightly plotted and richly atmospheric." --Financial Times (UK)

"What elevates Eng's book is the sheer beauty of his writing - restrained, elegant, precise, every detail accurate, every line considered . . . He resides in the very top row. The sentences here remind me of Shirley Hazzard, or perhaps James Salter. I can offer little higher praise." --Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"An ambitious, elaborate fiction about fictions . . . a portrait of the artist in crisis, a meditation on how and why we tell stories and a heated courtroom drama." --The Guardian

"A magnetic tale of love, betrayal, and colonialism." --Entertainment Weekly

"Graceful and well-researched." --Kirkus Reviews

"Outstanding . . . The House of Doors again displays [Eng's] talent for atmospheric evocation of place and period . . . Beautifully detailed and encompassing the vagaries of Maugham's life . . . The House of Doors is a finely accomplished piece of work." --Sunday Times (UK)

"This is historical fiction at its best-a novel that doesn't feel as though it was written about a time but rather as though it was written directly from that time. The House of Doors is immersive, transporting, and exquisitely crafted." --Cristina Henríquez, author of THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS

"An amazingly transporting novel about love, desire, and duty, The House of Doors does what the very best stories do -- it draws us into many fascinating worlds at once: The British Empire's incursions into South-East Asia; the secret life of one of England's finest writers; a forgotten murder trial playing out in the Kuala Lumpur courts a century ago. Weaving all this together with great skill and power, bringing the reader a surfeit of pleasure, Tan Twan Eng also teaches us a crucial lesson: never trust a writer." --Jonathan Lee, author of THE GREAT MISTAKE and HIGH DIVE

"The House of Doors is a tremendous feat of literary imagination. Highly evocative, richly observed and entirely convincing, it is a tour de force!" --William Boyd, author of ANY HUMAN HEART and TRIO

"This marvelous novel evokes the British empire in its final heyday. Sun Yat Sen, the great fighter for Chinese independence, appears in its pages, as does that masterly betrayer of expatriate secrets, the short story writer Somerset Maugham. In fact, Tan Twan Eng's gripping book could almost have been written by Maugham himself." --Anthony Everitt, author of ALEXANDER THE GREAT and AUGUSTUS

"[Tan Twan Eng] writes with deep insight into the history and topography of his native homeland and with deep feeling for its natural beauties." --Washington Post on THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS

"Beautifully written . . . Eng is quite simply one of the best novelists writing today." --The Philadelphia Inquirer on THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS

"Glorious . . . as robustly absorbing as it is achingly poignant." --USA Today on THE GIFT OF RAIN

"With unobtrusive skill, Eng weaves together events . . . to create a complex and powerful narrative." --The Times of London on THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS

"Eng's graceful prose evokes a time and place that is little known or remembered now, making it both exotic and familiar, and his beautiful narrative is woven with strong images and characters .... The Gift of Rain is a gift to read." --San Francisco Chronicle on THE GIFT OF RAIN

"Tan Twan Eng [is] a master of cultural complexities ... its themes are serious, its historic grounding solid, its structure careful, its old-fashioned ornamentalism respectable." --The Guardian on THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pub date: October 17, 2023
320 pages
Format: Hardcover