A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin (Swallow Press, 1954)
This groundbreaking novel presented a female character as capable of taking pleasure from sex without love in a way more often associated with men than women. It's been making waves ever since it was published.
Sabrina makes a random late night phone call to a stranger to confess her adultery. Strangers ask fewer questions, she tells the surprised man who answers. Little does she know that the recipient of her call is a lie detector, who tracks her down to the bar from which she made the phone call.
Sabrina is married to Alan, who she regards more as a father figure than a husband. She is unfaithful with four men in total over some time, enjoying sex for its own sake without the confines of love to complicate matters. Finally, confrontation with the lie detector helps her to understand her destructive behaviour and place it in context.
In A Spy in the House of Love, adulterous sex is portrayed both as harmless in terms of the pleasure it gives both parties and as deeply painful to the deceived spouse. Sex is described in quite poetic terms in this short novel, which is quite literary in tone. There is just the one story line and the emphasis is on Sabrina's physical experiences and her tumultuous emotions, partly euphoria at the affairs and partly the associated guilt of her betrayal of Alan.
Above all sex is described as a source of freedom, expression and delight. This was quite unusual when the book was published, and the suggestion that a woman should enjoy extramarital sex as much as a man was revolutionary.
I enjoyed A Spy in the House of Love for its tasteful eroticism as much as for its parallel focus on emotions, which Sabrina can't help but find creeping in. It isn't often that you find an erotic work that is very poetic in tone, and the use of language was inventive and full of imagery.
Many thanks for reading my review of A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin. I'll be back on Wednesday, in the meantime the comments section is open for you to share your thoughts.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of Maurice by EM Forster here.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Food for Feasts and Festivals by CJ Jackson here.