Picture of author.

Tan Twan Eng

Autor(a) de The Garden of Evening Mists

3 Works 2,840 Membros 200 Críticas 9 Favorited
There are 2 open discussions about this author. See now.

About the Author

Inclui os nomes: Twan Eng Tan, Tan Twan Eng

Image credit: Guardian

Obras por Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of Evening Mists (2012) 1,553 exemplares
The Gift of Rain (2007) 1,107 exemplares
The House of Doors (2023) 180 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
Local de nascimento
Penang, Malaysia
Locais de residência
Cape Town, South Africa
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
England, UK
University of London



ALERT! Fans of Tan Twan Eng em All Writers Considered (Fevereiro 25)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng em Booker Prize (Setembro 2015)
The Gift of Rain- Group Read em 75 Books Challenge for 2015 (Março 2015)


Maugham in Malaya
Review of the original Canongate hardcover (May 4, 2023).

Longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize, but did not make the Shortlist. The winner will be announced November 26, 2023.

Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other. - Epigraph for The House of Doors selected from W. Somerset Maugham's The Summing Up (1938).

See photo at http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8lJTNABjAr4/VN5iFKrFbcI/AAAAAAAAPa8/cQJe7z0XqcM/s1600/...
W. Somerset Maugham and his wife Syrie in the mid 1920s. I could not find a photo from Penang in 1921. This image was sourced from W. Somerset Maugham: A Portrait Gallery

I'm always fascinated with fictionalized novels about authors and with books about books in general, so my bias there makes this a 5-star read. The House of Doors is centred around author W. Somerset Maugham's visit to Penang in British Malaya in 1921 with his then partner/secretary Gerald Haxton. Maugham is on the run from his unhappy marriage back in England. His old (fictional) friend Robert Hamlyn invites Willie and Gerald to stay with him and his wife Lesley.

Although Maugham is recovering from illness he is swept up with learning stories of past and present scandals and affairs in the expatriate community in Malaya. These would become the basis of his short stories later published as The Casuarina Tree (1926) esp. the story The Letter which was based on the real-life Ethel Proudlock Case from 1911 which is related to him by Lesley who, in this fictionalized version, is Ethel Proudlock's best friend. Towards the conclusion, author Eng also provides a possible explanation for the motives behind the real-life case.

Along the way, tensions in the Hamlyn marriage are revealed as well. Lesley also looks back on her encounters with Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen who also visited Penang while raising funds for his eventual revolution against Chinese Imperial rule. Author Eng admits in his Afterword that he adjusted the real-life dates for Sun's time in Penang in order to link up the timing with the Proudlock case.

I thoroughly enjoyed The House of Doors, and it has inspired me to read several original works by W. Somerset Maugham including some of the short story collections [RTC].

Other Reviews
When the World’s Most Famous Writer Visits a Hotbed of Amorous Intrigue, by James Wood, The New Yorker, November 6, 2023.

Trivia and Links
Tan Twan Eng provides an extensive bibliography of the books used in his research which he lists in his Afterword.
[book:A Writer's Notebook|758496] by W. Somerset Maugham (William Heinemann, 1949)
[book:The Summing Up|52387477] by W. Somerset Maugham (William Heinemann, 1938)
[book:The Gentleman in the Parlour: A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong|301374] by W. Somerset Maugham (William Heinemann, 1930)
[book:The Casuarina Tree|127799057] by W. Somerset Maugham (William Heinemann, 1926)
[book:The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography|6901660] by Selena Hastings (John Murray, 2009)
[book:Willie: The Life of W. Somerset Maugham|191782] by Robert Calder (Heinemann, 1989)
[book:Somerset and All the Maughams|208078] by Robin Maugham (The New American Library, 1966)
[book:Conversations with Willie: Recollections of W. Somerset Maugham|297978] by Robin Maugham (W. H. Allen, 1978)
[book:Somerset Maugham|746961] by Ted Morgan (Triad Granada, 1981)
[book:Remembering Mr. Maugham|10319971] by Garson Kanin (Bantam, 1973)
[book:Murder on the Verandah - Love and Betrayal in British Malaya|3419303] by Eric Lawlor (HarperCollins, 1999)
[book:Sun Yat-sen|456244] by Marie-Claire Bergère (Stanford University Press, 1998)
[book:The Unfinished Revolution: Sun Yat-Sen and the Struggle for Modern China|36717798] by Tjio Kayloe (Marshall Cavendish, 2017)
[book:Sun Yat Sen in Penang|37715556] by Khoo Salma Nasution (Areca Books, 2008)
… (mais)
alanteder | 12 outras críticas | Nov 24, 2023 |
“We could always sell the Gauguin.”
This is story of interweaving lives converging on two weeks in Penang in 1910. There are several tales told and retold in the book, tales which Lesley, one of the main characters, describes as “factionalized fiction”.

House of Doors pivots on the two week period. Robert and his wife Lesley have invited Willie (Maugham) and his partner Gerald to stay in their house in Penang. The book is divided into chapters that tell the stories over two time periods by Leslie’s and Willie.

Robert is gay as are Willie and Gerald, but Willie is somehow unaware of this shared sexual preference between himself and his host even though they have known each other for some years. I think this ignorance is necessary as otherwise- what with the secret lovers and cross-cultural affaires it could all seem a bit messy. I can see no reason for it plot-wise.

Lesley takes a Chinese lover after finding out that Robert is having a secret affair with a Chinese guy.

An aside - throughout the book Chinese men are refered to as Chinamen. I know this word is coming from the mouth of a 1920s woman, but I found it offputing nevertheless.

There’s betrayal. A murder, the planning of the Chinese revolution that overthrew the Quin Dynasty. A lot of detail about Sun Yat Sen, the architecture of Armenian Street and the couture of the Chinese women. There’s even a courtroom drama based upon and actual crime which inspired Maugham's story “The Letter”.

There’s a lot to pack in, and a lot to keep the reader’s interest. Which it does.

The beauty of the novel lies in the way it brings to life the island city of Penang early last century, and the upper-crust British who ruled it.

With their dressing for dinner, their gossipings and betrayals, the British women accept their lives of privilege. The downside is that they are forced to put up with their husbands’ affaires. There’s a constant “If you do this I’ll do that” blackmail by the husbands. The women are utterly dependent on their men and live in cloistered luxury with their “head boys” and “cookies”.

I love the way. Tan Twang Eng describes the insensitive Brits, almost as asides. ‘They could never hang an English woman” remarks one of in-crowd after the sentencing of Ethel Proudlock, a real person who is a peripheral character in the The House of Doors but a central in Maugham’s “The Letter”.

How much is true and how much is fiction doesn’t matter. “The years blurs fiction. Fiction becomes memory and memory fiction”, muses Lesley in 1947 now living in South Africa where she moved to be with Robert for his health concerns. Still living the colonial life. One of the children is at Oxford as was to be expected. They had taken the dog with them. Claudius. A few Latin quotes and something about Verlaine. The upper-crust way of life and thought persist.

Oh, and there’s the bit about the homosexual ostriches. But I think I’ll leave it there. And dream about the city of Penang and times past.
… (mais)
kjuliff | 12 outras críticas | Nov 23, 2023 |
The House of Doors is a partially fictionalized account of W. Sommerset Maugham’s brief stay in the 1920s with an old school friend in Penang. His visit stirs up recollections of infidelities, revolutionaries, and a scandalous murder, but those are just the bones of this novel. Its spirit is the eloquent writing and how it portrays a time and place that feel tangibly real even though they're long gone. It turns out that a short story of Maugham’s, The Letter, is the basis for part of the plot and I suspect I’ll need to read it in order to fully appreciate this book.… (mais)
wandaly | 12 outras críticas | Nov 13, 2023 |
A prologue and epilogue are set in South Africa in 1947; in between, the narrative skips back and forth between 1910 and 1921 in Penang, Malaysia. Perspectives shift, too, between Lesley Hamlyn, a lawyer's wife, and W. Somerset Maugham ("Willie"), to whom Lesley relates the story of her best friend Ethel's murder trial, and her (Lesley's) romance with a Chinese revolutionary associated with Dr. Sun Yat Sen ("Sun Wen").

Guardian review: rel="nofollow" target="_top">https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/11/the-house-of-doors-by-tan-twan-eng...


"All of us do it - we play with truth, mould it into the form that shows our best side to the world....You only hear one aspect of it. You can never get the whole truth, the whole story." (Robert, 64)

It was something that had never occurred to me before: we all had the power to change our pasts, our beginnings - or our perception of them, at least - but none of us could determine how our stories would end. (Lesley, 64)

"All of us will be forgotten eventually. Like a wave on the ocean, leaving no trace that it had once existed."
He shook his head. "We will be remembered through our stories." (Lesley and Willie, 75)

"We see what we want to see." (Willie, 93)

We walked between the rows of painted doors, our shoulders and elbows setting them spinning slowly. Each door pirouetted open to reveal another set of doors, and I had the dizzying sensation that I was walking down the corridors of a constantly shifting maze, each pair of doors opening into another passageway, and another, giving me no inkling of where I would eventually emerge. (178)

"Evanescent path of dreams/in the summer night/O Bird of the mountain/carry my name beyond the clouds." (a poem by Shibata Katsuie, Japanese samurai, 180)

What keeps us alive will also, in the end, consume us. (192)

"Don't you ever get tired of traveling?"
"Never. I enjoy the freedom it gives me. I feel that when I travel I can change myself a little, and I return from a journey not quite the same self I was." (Willie to Robert, 252)

We sat there in the silence, our true thoughts camouflaged from each other. What sustained a marriage, kept it going year upon year, I realised, were the things we left unmentioned, the truths that we longed to speak forced back down our throats, back into the deepest, darkest chambers of our hearts. (Lesley, 257)

"Why is it that when you men make sacrifices it's always we women who must suffer the most?" (Lesley to Arthur Loh, 261)… (mais)
JennyArch | 12 outras críticas | Nov 13, 2023 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors


Marcado como favorito
Pedras de toque

Tabelas & Gráficos