Holly's Reviews > The Hothouse by the East River

The Hothouse by the East River by Muriel Spark
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's review
Feb 20, 12

Read in January, 2012

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 Paul, Elsa, and all their co-spies were killed in 1944 in a bomb that hit their train. This life in America is therefore all "unreal" so to speak; Paul and Elsa people a life that could have been if not for the war. Muriel Spark does an amazing job convincing the reader to suspend disbelief just enough - we're aware that she's using a device and that this is not science fiction; this device allows her to make a point about life and war and dreams and coming to terms w/ death...while being very funny. This is the kind of book you want to read w/ friends...so you can lean over and say, "What!?"

Potential symbolism:
--hothouse as hell/hades - but what was their sin?
--Peter Pan w/ old people - as a foil to the main story

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