- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; 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: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 636,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Hothouse by the East River Paperback – 30 Oct 1975
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In 1973 Paul and Elsa are living in New York. In 1944 they were both involved in intelligence work in England, and with the arrival in New York of Helmut Kiel, one-time German POW and lover of Elsa, their past returns to haunt them.
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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.
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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