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Bloomsbury Publishing

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (Hardcover)

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (Hardcover)

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Fiction - Historical - Literary - LGBTQ+


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.


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.

"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

“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

"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

"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

"Outstanding . . . Beautifully detailed and encompassing the vagaries of Maugham's life, The House of Doors is a finely accomplished piece of work." —Sunday Times (UK)

“Expertly constructed, tightly plotted and richly atmospheric.” —Financial Times (UK)

“An undeniably compelling tale . . . complex and beguiling.” —Big Issue (UK)

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