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The Hothouse by the East River Paperback – 30 Oct 1975


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (30 Oct 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140040021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140040029
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 0.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 April 2001
Format: Paperback
This is my third Muriel Spark and the most difficult. The characters... have been beset by very " living " problems and interpersonal conflict. Their existence is centered in an old NY apartment overlooking the East River. The central figures are a married couple whose relationship is dysfunctional, to say the least. They are surrounded by a son and daughter who came along after they died, and by a gaggle of friends with whom they interacted in an intelligence agency during WWII, and with whom they died in a train which was struck by a V2 bomb in 1944.
Among their conflicts are possible infidelities, a gay son, a promiscuous daughter, and failed relationships with their intelligence co-workers.
As one reads there is the hope that it will all come together and be meaningful, but that did not occur for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 April 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is, I'd say, very characteristic Muriel Spark, but it would certainly not be the one I'd recommend to any newcomer wanting to make her acquaintance for the first time. Some comment that I have seen seems to suggest that the book is not viewed as one of her best either. Myself, I'm not so sure about that. This story is, to put it mildly, a bit fey, and to put it more emphatically downright weird. A tinge of irrationality is nothing new in a Muriel Spark novel, but this typically short production inhabits the outer limits. The characters are no more than animations, the situations are bizarre and fantastic, and not only is the reality of both called frequently into question, there is even a strong hint that the main dramatis personae had actually died in an air raid during the second world war.

Some of the usual Spark features are missing this time, for instance there is no Catholicism and there are no Scottish names. By way of a change, the setting is New York, and if you are already familiar with Spark's cast of mind you will not be surprised to learn that this great city comes in for some memorable satire for its psychoanalysts and its half-page list of 'problems' - 'the youth problem, the racist problem...the homosexual problem, the traffic problem, the heterosexual problem, the obesity problem, the garbage problem...the uxoricidal problem...the drug problem...' The phantoms or semi-phantoms who populate the book are to some extent a device for conveying a critical view of New York, but of course one can never pin down Muriel Spark as simply as that.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "dccarles" on 27 April 2003
Format: Paperback
The various elements seem to fail to come together. 'The Driver's Seat' stands in contrast - 'Hothouse' seems to wander a bit. The antirealistic elements do lend an air of mystery, leaving the reader in doubt as to what's Really Going On. Spark will often withhold important facts while tantalizing the reader with others, but in this novel, I never knew why Kiel was a threat, and didn't really care. All this said, an averagish Muriel Spark novel is still a very good read, with satiric lines that will leave you gasping for breath on the bus to work. (I'd quote some but my copy isn't handy.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
one of her best in my humble opinion 1 Aug 2006
By Mrs. W. Ardoin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As mentioned by someone else on this page, this book is not for people who are new to Spark's novels. It is probably my favorite of all her books, in a way. I read it right after I read her autobiography and it was interesting to see how she integrated some of the events and people from her life (particularly around WWII in England) into the story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
SHADOWS 23 April 2006
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is, I'd say, very characteristic Muriel Spark, but it would certainly not be the one I'd recommend to any newcomer wanting to make her acquaintance for the first time. Some comment that I have seen seems to suggest that the book is not viewed as one of her best either. Myself, I'm not so sure about that. This story is, to put it mildly, a bit fey, and to put it more emphatically downright weird. A tinge of irrationality is nothing new in a Muriel Spark novel, but this typically short production inhabits the outer limits. The characters are no more than animations, the situations are bizarre and fantastic, and not only is the reality of both called frequently into question, there is even a strong hint that the main dramatis personae had actually died in an air raid during the second world war.

Some of the usual Spark features are missing this time, for instance there is no Catholicism and there are no Scottish names. By way of a change, the setting is New York, and if you are already familiar with Spark's cast of mind you will not be surprised to learn that this great city comes in for some memorable satire for its psychoanalysts and its half-page list of `problems' - `the youth problem, the racist problem...the homosexual problem, the traffic problem, the heterosexual problem, the obesity problem, the garbage problem...the uxoricidal problem...the drug problem...' The phantoms or semi-phantoms who populate the book are to some extent a device for conveying a critical view of New York, but of course one can never pin down Muriel Spark as simply as that. These strange personae have a cartoon-life of their own, and one sequence at least - the choice of over-ripe tomatoes for their alleged dietary properties and the use they are subsequently put to - is very typical Spark humour, and I found it very funny.

The chief character in the book casts a shadow that falls in the wrong direction. Right at the end, in response to an undefined but seemingly ghostly summons, she leaves the scene trailing not Wordsworthian clouds of glory but `her faithful and lithe cloud of unknowing'. Dame Muriel Spark herself left our society only a few days ago, leaving behind her a unique collection of novels where bafflement is all part of the intended effect. It is her own cloud of unknowing, but at its best it is a cloud of glory too.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A boring and stupid novel by one of my favorite authors 11 Oct 2001
By Stephen O. Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Muriel Spark is easily the best living Scottish writer (though she has long lived in Italy) and has produced many brilliant novels (including Memento Mori, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Abbess of Crewe, The Only Problem, Girls of Slender Means, A Far Cry from Kensington), but this (1973) one rivals _The Driver's Seat_ (1970) for being her worst. It is an implausible and arbitrary tale of a well-to-do couple living in Manhattan who met in a counter-intelligence/propaganda program during World War II. The wife thinks she has seen a man who was a Nazi double agent working in a shoe store, though he was supposed to have died long ago.

I find it impossible to believe in or care about any of the characters in this typically short (139-page) Spark novel, and the ending rivals that of (her fellow convert to Catholicism) G. K. Chesterton's _The Man Who Was Friday_ for unsatisfactoriness. A side-plot on vaguely "shock the bourgeoisie" off-Broadway theater of the early 1970s adds more yawns, as does a ridiculout psychiatrist turned butler.

This novel from Spark's doldrum period deserves to stay out of print, whereas most of her novels from _The Abbess of Crewe_ (1974) through _Far Cry_ (1988) and her pre-1970s novels continue to provide pleasures and insights to readers and deserve to be in print and read.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Hothouse by the East River 8 Aug 2003
By annie lucas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Muriel Spark continues to cause one to laugh aloud with her expertly simmered-to-a-boil biting social wit!
Savour this one a chapter at a time to allow for proper absorbtion and complete enjoyment.
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