During June, an accidental library haul occurred. A Spy in the House of Love, first published in 1954, was one of the books which I could not resist taking home with me, loving Nin’s work as I do. Sadly, upon reflection, I should have left it behind.
I chose A Spy in the House of Love for mine and Yamini’s 50 Women Challenge, it being the only book of Nin’s upon the library shelves which I hadn’t yet read. The novella – for the whole is comprised of under 130 pages – tells of Sabina, a woman who ‘leads a double life inspired by her relentless desire for brief encounters with near-strangers. Fired into faithlessness by a desperate longing for sexual fulfilment, she weaves a sensual web of deceit across New York. But when the secrecy of her affairs becomes too much to bear, Sabina makes a late night phone-call to a stranger from a bar, and begins a confession that captivates the unknown man and soon inspires him to seek her out…’. I was rather intrigued by the premise, and have been impressed in the past by the way in which Nin handles more adult themes within her fiction.
The opening line of A Spy in the House of Love certainly sets an interesting tone for what follows: ‘The lie detector was asleep when he heard the telephone ringing’. My favourite element of the novella, without a doubt, is the striking descriptive power which Nin wields, ranging from ‘a lax, spangled, spiralling laughter’, to her depiction of Sabina: ‘dressed in red and silver, she endured the sounds and imagery of fire engines as they tore through the streets of New York, alarming the heart with the violent gong of catastrophe’.
Sadly, I cannot say that I at all enjoyed A Spy in the House of Love. It is the most sexually explicit of Nin’s work which I have encountered to date, and whilst I do not mind that per se, I did question the point of it here at times. It seemed to be eroticism for eroticism’s sake (if there is such a thing!), and did not add a great deal to the story.