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on 22 September 2015
I read this when I was young enough to believe that I could, if I wished, ‘be’ Sabina. I had already devoured most of D H Lawrence’s novels and been impressed, as only a pretentious undergraduate can be, with this (or any) kind of angst-ridden literature, so I was ready for more and was inclined to believe that Anais Nin would go deeper in, as it were, and stay there for longer.
A third of a century later, I downloaded the English version to my kindle and plunged in once again. What I found was a predictable minefield of emotion, a philosophy that had more twists and turns than an anaconda and, in between, passages that struck home with one or several blinding truths that went off like fireworks in my brain. More! I wanted more. It was like sifting through sand to find gold, laborious but ultimately worth the effort.
Nin is a master at proving the point that, as The Verve later put it, rather more succinctly, in Bittersweet Symphony: (we are) ‘a million different people from one day to the next…’ Sabina wrangles with her multiple personalities and endeavours to satisfy each one, all the time searching for the real ‘Sabina’.
I will undoubtedly return to this book, but I will try it in French next time. The English version was chosen for its lower price tag (shameful) and in the vain hope that it might be easier to read (genetic flaw). I have to say that it is not a bad effort, (I believe that Nin was criticised greatly for her English*) but there is an unavoidable awkwardness that jars the flow and this book needs, above all, to flow. There were too many ‘annihilations’ ‘dispersions’ ‘fragments’ and every part of speech involving the base form ‘bleak’ (this last one must have been when even the author had had enough of Sabina’s inner turmoil and her long-way-round trip to find herself).
A richer, more natural lexical field would at least have avoided choices that are almost but not quite apt, not to mention the tedious repetition of standby, last resort words as mentioned above. ‘Lostness’ was probably the last straw for me.
However, until I get to grips with the French edition once more, which may read better, I feel a bit of a fraud. Even in English, the book is definitely well worth reading.

* I believe that Nin wrote in both English and French and that her books are not translations.
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on 1 June 2009
On first reading this book I was immediately struck by its depth of characterisation and originality. Formally in the mode of 'By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept' it is a novella written in beautiful abstract prose. Where as much of Nin's work is concerned with reportage of sexual adventure, this book depicts her emotional response to a number of relationships. Her rich use of imagery and dense language make 'A Spy in the House of Love' a memorable and inspirational book that goes some way to transporting the reader back to the streets and hotels of post-war New York.
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on 28 June 2013
I read a lot, and easily get through a substantial volume of pages in a few days. But this story I found only mildly interesting, and I'm struggling to find motivation to actually completely finish it. Perhaps it is because I don't care enough about the main character and found her "dramas" a bit dull, and her histrionic behaviour rather irritating. I suppose this was a revolutionary book for its time, but now women experience other dilemmas of rather opposite nature... namely, how to find a steady relationship in a sea of choices. Peaceful domesticity looks today less like a trap to run away from into night bars in red glittering dresses and "stare angrily at dawn" when it's time to go home. It is quite beautifully written, though, and for that reason I might give Nin another try in the future.
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on 22 May 2002
Anais Nin superbly creates a captivating, complex female character – Sabina – divided between her will to live multiple lives, and escape the routine of an ordinary existence; and her sense of guilt, personified by the Lie Detector, which follows her virtually everywhere. Her promiscuous search of love culminates in an emotional break down which revels her fragile nature and her naiveness in trying to escape reality by constructing her perfect, idyllic love dimension, out of multiple superficial love relationships.
The story line is not meant to be followed in a chronological order. There is an element of repetition that, though has been criticized, in my opinion works in favor of the concept on which evolves the whole story and Sabina’s psychology. There is also a poetic component that enriches the narrative, although it is not as keenly developed as in other works of Anais Nin, such as in Under A Glass Bell.
A Spy In The House Of Love can be a perfect introduction to Anais Nin and her writings, but it can be also appreciated as a distinct fiction story. This book, although relatively short, manages perfectly to develop Sabina’s complicated character and her psychology, absorbing completely the reader in its dimension. Therefore, I vividly recommend this book to all readers in search of a short fiction story but still capable of captivating the reader through the complexity of its main character.
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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.
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on 7 October 2016
So far the best of Anais Nin that I've read, though mostly I have been into the autobiographies. I many ways this makes sense if those and this story parallels her endless interlocking affairs. What is fascination is the way that her superficiality is gradually revealed as a deliberate life stance, a way of protecting herself from finding out how shallow she is- until it is revealed to her in the final chapter by the man she calls the lie detector. I am reminded of a line in the film Julia by one character when referring to her husband . "Deep down he is really superficial."
What is disappointing is that it ends just when there seems a possibility that she will grow up.
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on 27 November 2013
The prose in this is captivating and compelling. The storyline can wander and become confused but I found myself drawn to the protagonist and her fragile existance.
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on 4 November 2014
Anais Nin has to be the writer par excellence to study for all those enjoying classy prose and a subtle introduction to erotica. A Spy in the House of Love is a small book by modern standards but is a classical and fascinating psychological study that can be devoured in one sitting. I found the story of complex Sabrina wonderful and this is a book I have returned to time and time again. Nin's writing technique is smooth, flawless and a mark of genius, her passages of description beautiful.
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on 11 December 2015
A short book that I have been wanting to read for a while. This book is about a married woman, who loves her husband but sleeps with other men, she of course feels guilty about this. I am not going to spoil any more of this book and it is quite short at just shy of 130 pages.
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on 10 May 2016
Bought this for my sister - she's not caught up with the IT age, she loves the book.
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