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A Spy in the House of Love

(Cities of the Interior #4)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  5,762 ratings  ·  419 reviews
Although Anais Nin found in her diaries a profound mode of self-creation and confession, she could not reveal this intimate record of her own experiences during her lifetime. Instead, she turned to fiction, where her stories and novels became artistic "distillations" of her secret diaries. A Spy in the House of Love, whose heroine Sabina is deeply divided between her drive ...more
Paperback, 166 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Pocket Books (first published 1954)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  5,762 ratings  ·  419 reviews

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Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I want to take a moonbath
Steven Godin
I thought this was going to read something like Delta of Venus. Basically pornographic. But I was wrong. It's nothing like Delta of Venus. The thing is, I'm not sure I can say I actually preferred it to Delta, which I also scored a three. That book really made you sit up and take notice! whereas this didn't so much. Maybe I just rushed it, reading in one go, when it would benefit from the patience and time it probably deserves. Spy in the House of Love is written beautifully, with a symbolic and ...more
Lynne King
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anais-nin
A taster: “Desire made a volcanic island, on which they lay in a trance, feeling the subterranean whirls lying beneath them……The trembling premonitions shaking the hands, the body, made dancing……..They fled from the eyes of the world……where there were no words by which to possess each other….. unbearable but only one ritual, a joyous, joyous impaling of woman on a man’s sensual mast.”

But “who is Sabina? What is she?”

I’ve read Anaïs Nin’s “Journal of a Wife” (The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1923-27
"Sabina thought she must have strayed somewhere between her inventions, her stories, her quirks and her real being. She erased the borders; the paths had disappeared, she walked at random in a chaotic universe."

The more I think about it, the more I tell myself that I liked this writing, even more than the story which is however touching. But Anaïs Nin has a unique script, poetic words, and way of relating events in particular. I wondered if the narrator lost in a dream. And after these few pages
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe because I expected a much simpler tale or maybe because I had higher expectations about what this book would be like, but somehow I couldn't help but feeling deceived by this story.
The short summary at the back cover seemed promising enough: a haunted woman, Sabina, who is unable to remain faithful to her husband Alan. She is helplessly attracted to total strangers and finally driven into fruitless affairs which leave her feeling restless, guilty and edgy. But at the same time, she can't l
Mar 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Anaïs Nin crafts stunning (and self-destructive?) descriptions of the many insecurities and anxieties of being a woman. This book, although sometimes a bit trite, completely floored me. I'm resonating in her language, almost in disbelief at having familiar issues so beautifully and boldy presented. I actually found myself caught up in her adept confessions of the sometimes banal main character, and was often reading on for pages before realizing that I needed to slow down and let some of the min ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the secret self unveiled
Recommended to Mariel by: firebirds
He turned his eyes, now a glacial blue, fully upon her. They were impersonal and seemed to gaze beyond her at all women who had dissolved into one, but who might at any moment again become dissolved into all.
This was the gaze Sabina had always encountered in Don Juan, everywhere; it was the gaze she mistrusted.
It was the alchemy of desire fixing itself upon the incarnation of all women into Sabina for a moment but as easily by a second process able to alchemize Sabina into many others.

I rememb
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-lit
My first Anais Nin book so i did'nt know what to expect really.
But what i discovered was a beautifully written book.Very descriptive
and an over powering sense of the anxiety Sabina was suffering in
the story.Such an edgy restless character.
I did'nt think it was so erotic....just a study of the guilt and
anxiety of Sabina who was trying to find love and didnt seem to really
know what she was looking for or could'nt find it all in one place.

Felt a bit sorry for her husband who didnt have a clue what
What I remember most from my first reading of this book is the feeling of disappointment when I was done. That there was no resolution, no final report,and not even a character I could bond with.In fact, the characters rather repelled me.They seemed to lack substance. I felt like I had stumbled in to the wrong party,and instead of the crowd of witty friends I was expecting,I was confronted with an aimless group of earnest strangers.

From the perspective of years,I can see how I may have been vas
May 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
All I am going to say is this is an amazing piece of work, readng it is a sensuous experience,one to be savoured and thought about. Anais Nin has captured perfectly the feelings of many women who are torn between being wife,lover,mother,child,friend and mentor and how all those facets of our personality come together to create the person we are. If words acould be turned into something tangible this read would be (for me) Calvados, Shalimar perfume and cigar smoke, Exotic and mysterious, with ju ...more
"The enemy of love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves." (p118)

The muddled line between love and lust, desire and detachment, infidelity and independence. This was a 30-year old woman's personal "definition" of sexual liberation, of sleeping in different beds, underneath different bodies all the whilst with a husband at home. A contradictory, an ambiguousness, it's the hand of marriage pressed hard on the base of her throat. A Spy in the House of Love was
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
I wouldn't advise reading this if you are working the nightshift in a Siberian coalmine: these are strictly poor-little-rich-girl problems.

But that's not to say that Sabina isn't very unhappy and deserving of our sympathy, and that Nin doesn't write very well.

I just think Mary McCarthy probably did it better: a sense of humour, and characters taking themselves a bit less seriously.

There's no escaping that Sabina's problems could have been solved by either:
a) A job. An early Peggy at Sterling C
Roxana Chirilă
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sabina is a compulsive liar and she sleeps around, lying to her husband all the time and living in a world of anxiety and fractured personality - but I'm already making this sound like a very different book than it actually is.

"A Spy in the House of Love" contains so much purple prose that emperors could wear it as a toga. Here's a sample:

"The caresses of the night before were acutely marvellous, like all the multicolored flames from an artful fireworks, bursts of exploded suns and neons within
Katherine Ginensky
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don’t feel like I can rate this lol did I understand any of it? Many sentences resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect but then all of a sudden we’d be in a different country and I didn’t remember the transition. It makes me want to write in detail about all my trysts. This wasn’t very erotic (which is fine, I’ll read her actual erotica soon) and I think I’m maybe not good at reading surrealism if that’s even what this is

Update: 5 stars!!
The theme of this book is infidelity - Sabina, the main character, commits infidelity and it's about her thoughts and experiences about that.

Nin is very avant garde a writer and this is both her strength and failing. I get a sense that the writer is continually and self-consciously striving and pushing for showy image and style. As a result substance can often suffer for that. Often this novel feels thin and insubstantial. The characters are not well-developed - the men are like caricatures or
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are those who view Sabina as a hero and those who view her as a villain. I can not change the mind of one who dismisses this book because they are not interested in her life and her experiences. A Spy In The House of Love is very much Sabina's mental anguish, her uncertainty and her conscience wrestling within itself and if you've no interest in her, you will not be interested in her story.
This is a book about a woman who, quite simply, has affairs. Plural. I find it quite easy to find tal
Debbie Robson
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Having already read one of Nin's erotic short story collections, I (wrongly) presumed that this novel was a similar type of work. How wrong could I be! This is (for me anyway) a brilliant evocation of a lost soul. Sabina moves between her sheltered, relatively happy life with Alan to her restless wanderings of nightclubs, the beach and Mambo's club. During the course of this short novel we meet three of her men. My favourite is the flyer from the war who has seen death and like Sabina can't live ...more
Oh god, this book is incredible. Thank you Anais Nin!

I'm sure it's not the only book out there that covers this topic, but it's the only one I've read, where a woman who sleeps around is neither a slut nor a whore, but simply a lost being who is in search of love and who thinks that sex can be transformed into it. She is not judged by anyone but herself. She is not shamed for her actions, except by herself. She is driven by need and held back by guilt, and lives a half life in which she is thro
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nin
I think that Nin's writing is always outstanding. This was no different. The story was not erotic at all, but followed Sabine, who has multiple love affairs. It gives you a glimpse of her guilt and her thought processes. I found it quite sad actually, as it seems like she felt estranged from everything and was never contented. ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I know no one who evokes the extremes of emotion and physical sensation as convincingly as Anaïs Nin. Exactly that might be the problem. There is no pause in the intensity of her prose. It's arresting, yes, breathless, certainly - restless, desperate, at times despairingly hopeful, and it's all of these things at once. Her sentences never stutter before gaining momentum again. They gallop along, endlessly, with sweat on their tongues, urged on by a writer who doesn't believe in taking a breath w ...more
Gabrielle Scabellone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bon Tom
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's a poetry in prose, sometimes even too poetic for its own good.

But where it manages to balance the tendency towards trying to be immensely profound for the glory of the writer and comprehensible for the benefit of the reader, it's a beautiful peace of art.
Sarah Coe
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone feeling in need of a little sexy danger
Shelves: sexysexy
Anais Nin is brilliant at capturing the essence of female sensuality, mystery and complexity. Reading Nin feels like taking a warm, candle-lit bath while drinking a glass of good red wine.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to be Anais Nin... couldn't manage the eyelashes. Prefer her fiction to her diary, and this is my favorite--the ghost of June Miller everywhere here. ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished, modern
I was sort of sticking around to find out whether Sabina just really wanted lots of sex and all this "I am the morphing woman" thing was her sex-repressed way of justifying her sexual appetites, or if it was the other way around. Ultimately, I suppose it doesn't really matter, and to pin it down to one or another would make the book little more than a psychological case study.

Mostly, her lifestyle (and Nin's prose) seemed exhausting, and made me very happy to be in my jammies at night, cuddling
Printable Tire
Has the distinction of being the only book I've ever read 77% of (or around pages 92 of 118 pages) and then quit. In fact, I can't remember ever deliberately quitting a book if I'm more than 5 pages into it, but I'm getting older now, and my time and patience is a little more scarce.

From the get-go this book's "plot" was always in peril of being swallowed by the character's own over-self-analysis, often poetically told. But it became clear after a while that nothing was going anywhere, and even
Yash Sinojia
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I so want to have a Moonbath!
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
1,5 only because of several nice thoughts.
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I first discovered Nin last year actually. Read a sample of her diary in a comic book anthology I own. Ended up really liking her. Thankfully my mom owns three of her books. This one being the first that was published the earliest.

I wouldn't start with this book though. I feel like I made the mistake reading an authors wok in chronological order this time. Most of the times I try to do that to see how a writer writes, but I felt like I was missing something with this one. Is there a book before
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
First Anais Nin I've ever read...basically, the story of a woman who is deeply vulnerable and unstable. Throughout the story, Sabina slips in and out of sexual encounters with different men although she seems to derive her deepest happiness from a man named Alan, who represents somewhat of a father figure. Although she deeply admires him and even might love him, Sabina is so unstable that she cannot seem to stop her infidelities, even though she is racked with guilt and paranoia afterward. Her e ...more
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French-born novelist, passionate eroticist and short story writer, who gained international fame with her journals. Spanning the years from 1931 to 1974, they give an account of one woman's voyage of self-discovery. "It's all right for a woman to be, above all, human. I am a woman first of all." (from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. I, 1966)

Anaïs Nin was largely ignored until the 1960s. Today she is

Other books in the series

Cities of the Interior (5 books)
  • Ladders to Fire
  • Children of the Albatross (Cities of the Interior #2)
  • The Four-Chambered Heart: V3 in Nin's Continuous Novel
  • Seduction of the Minotaur

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