Top critical review
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Eve and her many Adams
on 3 July 2011
A woman who loves her husband but has a need to sleep with other men feels guilty about these infidelities and does her best to keep them from him. In this way she feels herself split into different personalities and different people and discovers things about herself though this sexual odyssey.
If you've read my summary and felt "so what?" then you'll have been like me while reading it, thinking that the book has lost it's impact in 21st century Western culture because in the 50s and in the eyes of many people today, marriage and fidelity are things everyone should want and have and that the kind of sexual exploration and adventure seen in the book are things to be ashamed of. Not anymore though! Men and women frequently live lives where they are no longer tied down by conventional sexual mores and live differently (and happily) the lives they want to.
That said, I'm sure the book caused something of a stir when it was first published. The book also addresses the lack of feeling Sabina (the main character) has when she is in these extramarital affairs (hence the title) so it isn't totally risqué, there are morals presented.
While the book is little over 100 pages long, the writing style is at times laborious as Anais Nin likes to use a lot of metaphors, similes and descriptive words in her work, making a single moment stretch beyond it's use. Her characters, while varied, often fail to come to life and despite being told that they're exciting, vibrant people, I never felt this in Nin's writing. Her style leans toward the abstract which is more suited to concepts than people. The dialogue often felt too much like she wanted to make a point and so it goes from being artful to being unrealistic and turned the characters into ciphers.
The book tackles extra-marital affairs well even if the writing is at times tedious to read and the characters a bit colourless. I enjoyed parts of it and eventually finished it but overall felt it could have been better than it was. Not a great read but short. Of all the writers of this time - 40s and 50s - I wouldn't say Anais Nin is or was one of the essential authors to read and "A Spy in the House of Love" is quite a weak novella.