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The House of Doors

The House of Doors

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By Tan Twan Eng

From the bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted 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. As her friendship with Willie grows, she makes the dangerous decision to confide in him, telling him tales of life in the Straits, including how she came to know Dr. Sun Yat Sen, a charismatic Chinese revolutionary, and the scandalous case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in Kuala Lumpur—an outrage drawn from fact and, to Willie, worthy of fiction.

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

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