Blog · Posted May 18, 2023

We were delighted to announce that Tan Twan Eng would be with us on Thurs 18th May to discuss his new novel, The House of Doors.

Many of you will remember The Garden of Evening Mists which won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker.  It’s a long-standing in-house favourite at Mainstreet, so we were just a bit excited about this event…

Based on the true story behind W Somerset Maugham’s The Letter, The House of Doors is a novel of 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 steely wife Lesley a society hostess. Their lives are invigorated when Willie, an old friend of Robert’s, comes to stay – together with his charming secretary, Gerald.

The House of Doors expertly interweaves three true stories: Somerset Maugham’s 1921 visit to Malaya; Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen’s fundraising trip there a decade earlier; and the sensational trial for murder of Ethel Proudlock the same year, on which Maugham’s famous short story and play The Letter was later based.