Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia, and worked as an advocate in one of Kuala Lumpur's leading law firms before becoming a full-time writer.

His debut novel The Gift of Rain was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007 and has been widely translated. The Garden of Evening Mists won the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 and the 2013 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2012 and the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Tan divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town. The House of Doors is his third novel.  

Tan Twan Eng on writing The House of Doors

‘In my teenage years, when I first read Somerset Maugham’s The Letter, I was intrigued to discover that he had based it on Ethel Proudlock’s trial in Kuala Lumpur in 1911. She was the first white woman to be charged with murder in Malaya. She claimed that the man she had shot dead had tried to rape her in her home.  

‘The House of Doors is about many things, but at the heart of it all, it is really about the acts of creation: how Maugham had come to hear about the trial, and how he had transmuted it into his story. It’s about the power of stories, how they can transcend cultures and borders, transcend even time itself.    

‘I see The House of Doors and The Letter as mirrors of each other. How you read The House of Doors will affect your reading of The Letter, which in turn will then change how you view The House of Doors, which in turn will then alter your impressions of The Letter, which in turn will … and on and on it goes, a pair of mirrors, reflecting each other into infinity, the patterns of the reflections changing every time you look at them.

Read the full interview here.

Tan Twan Eng

All nominated books

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng
The Gift of Rain
The Garden of Evening Mists