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The Hothouse by the East River
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The Hothouse by the East River

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  129 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
He is standing in the middle of the room. She is sitting by the window, staring out over the East River. The late sunlight from the opposite window touches her shoulders and hair, it casts the shadow of palm leaves across the carpet, over her arm. The chair she sits in casts a shadow before her.

There is another shadow, hers. It falls behind her.

Behind her, and cast by what
Hardcover, 146 pages
Published April 30th 1973 by Viking (first published 1973)
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Dhanaraj Rajan
May be three and half stars.

First Observation:

I finished reading this book this morning and till now I am not sure what to make of this novel. I am not a person to look for hidden meaning in every novel. But then, the case here is different.


Warning: This contains spoilers.

The novel certainly has a story to tell. And in fact, it is fast paced. The moment one sits to read, one is caught up in the plot. It races to the finish. But in the end you realize that you had been tricked. You begin to
Dec 06, 2013 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Muriel Spark, she's famous right? My only reference comes from Colin Firth referring to Ruth Gemmell as Miss Jean Brodie in the movie adaptation of Nicky Hornby's Fever Pitch. A tenuous connection indeed to somebody made a Dame of the British Empire for her services to literature. I had a vague perception of copious stuffy studies of the class structure of Britain but thanks to this beautiful first edition of one of her obscurities received as a birthday gift I can safely lay those preconceived ...more
Apr 19, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-novels
I've never read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but the novels I have read by Muriel Spark have been distinctly odd and this is no exception. It is quite a curiosity.
Paul and Elsa are married and living in a New York apartment facing the East River; it is the early 1970s. Elsa has some form of mental illness and spends much of her time looking out of the window at the river. Her shadow falls the opposite way to everyone else's. She has an analyst (of course) and the couple have two grown up chil
Sep 05, 2015 Doreen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
my favorite quote from this book:
‘Haven’t we got enough serious problems in this city? We already have the youth problem, the racist problem, the distribution problem, the political problem, the economic problem, the crime problem, the matrimonial problem, the ecological problem, the divorce problem, the domiciliary problem, the consumer problem, the birth-rate problem, the middle-age problem, the health problem, the sex problem, the incarceration problem, the educational problem, the fiscal pr
Charles Dee Mitchell
Paul and Elsa form a middle-aged married couple who live unhappily together in Manhattan. This is the 1970’s, and their aging apartment overlooks the East River but is in an older building a little too far south to be fashionable. The air conditioners no longer keep up with the summer heat, and the radiators, whatever their setting, run full blast for the winter. Paul and Elsa are always uncomfortable. Their grown children need nothing from them but money, but this is not a burden. They are rich ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the correct place to start this review is 75% into the text. This is where I gave up on the book. My eye had started skipping to the end of paragraphs and I realised that it was no longer holding my interest; it had defeated me. So I went off and read a few reviews to see what other people thought and was genuinely surprised by the enthusiasm of some of the reviewers. Were we reading the same book? Nonsense is often a matter of perspective. Say to a caveman that one day man would travel ...more
First sentence: "If it were only true that all's well that ends well, if it were only true."

Last sentence: "She turns to the car, he following her, watching as she moves how she trails her faithful and lithe cloud of unknowing across the pavement."

From In 1944 Paul Hazlett is working in the Compound, a secret government department in Britain, which specialized in propaganda broadcasts over Europe. There he falls in love with Elsa Janovic who is also engaged with black propaganda
Oct 17, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2011 Janean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Packed into the pages of this short novella are two worlds: One in present day New York City and one many years earlier during the second world war. The first clue that something isn’t right is a certain shadow that falls the wrong way regardless of the light. As the tale deepens, more questions arise: Who is mad and who is imaginary? Did Luis Bunuel conspire with Alfred Hitchcock to write this infernal little tale?
Margaret Cooney
Aug 18, 2013 Margaret Cooney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the strangest books I've ever read that has remained with me for many years. All of her books are deceptive and this one is no different but it has a strange evocative atmosphere and a sneaky plot twist. I won't spoil it but if you can track it down, and you like the waspish style of her writing, give it a go.
Feb 20, 2012 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elsa's shadow falls in the wrong direction...into the light. Her family (husband Paul, daughter Katerina, and son Pierre) and her therapist are perplexed, and they start to have suspicions that things...are not quite right.

Paul and Elsa worked for the British government in a secret department which specialized in propaganda during WWII. They now live in an apartment by the East River in New York, an apartment w/ minimal-to-no heat control.

The reader finds 95% through the novella that
Feb 24, 2016 Jim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In 1973 NYC, Paul and Elsa live in a high rise apartment overlooking the East River. In 1944 London, Paul and Elsa and their cohorts are boarding a train that will take them back to the country Compound where they all are engaged in propaganda work for British Intelligence. This novel loops back on itself like an Escher drawing. The last twenty-odd pages are interesting. The preceding one hundred and twenty pages are annoying.
Michael Meeuwis
Huh. I had to go looking online for, I guess, permission to discover what I sort of suspected: that this isn't a particularly realist novel. This was my first Muriel Spark, and this feels like a weird book within her oeuvre--within anyone's oeuvre, really. Interesting (maybe) as a WW2 and postwar novel; it treads similar ground to "Gravity's Rainbow," if in a very different manner. I'm still not sure what I think of this.
Jun 29, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one was full of magic, wit and suspence.
A short novella which has you wondering if Elsa and paul are real and then you realise that they died in the war.
I loved it.
Jul 27, 2007 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1973, this short, bizarre novel has no satisfactory resolution. The characters are together in New York and were also British and/or German spies in WWII. They do typically New York things, go to bars and restaurants, dance, go to off off Broadway theatre in the Village and endure much psychoanalysis. It has hilarious moments and great turns of phrase, but none of the loose ends really tie up. A woman whose shadow goes in the wrong direction must be symbolic of something, but what? ...more
Sep 20, 2016 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually if I read a book and get to a page with a magical aspect, the book gets tossed. Not this time, not Muriel Spark.
May 13, 2016 Lisalisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It started out a lovely, neurotic little book and ended up quite a scary, psychotic story. I liked it though, it's mysterious and weird and just strange enough to make you question everything.
Jun 24, 2008 Monika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was definitely too bizarre for me. Maybe with different ending which shows what's really going on in this story - this could be intriguing. Plus it was too chaotic. All retrospections didn't help to understand the plot better. However, sometimes it made me smile so it wasn't the worst read.
Made it to page 66, plus read through last chapter. I liked the twist at the end.
Apr 18, 2013 Lampgirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully bizarre - curious and surprising tale. Quite mad.
Kellie Marnoch
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james e simmons jr rated it it was ok
Sep 01, 2016
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. In 2008 The Times newspaper named Spark in its list of "the 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Spark received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1965 for The Mandelbaum Gate, the Ingersoll Foundation TS Eli
More about Muriel Spark...

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