A Spy in the House of Love
By anaïs nin

reviewed by Nicolle Hodges

Pages 270

Genre Historical Fiction

Published 1954

A Spy in the House of Love

The Cheat Sheet


complex–reads like a poem

Standout Feature:

intensity of the writing

Key Takeaway:

can one indulge without consequence?

She's a book fiend and erotica extraordinaire. Meet Nicolle.

Growing up, Nicolle Hodges turned to reading as an escape from a tumultuous home life. Over the years, her close relationship with literature, lust for knowledge, and desire to question everything helped her to unravel the world and create projects that instigate conversation, from Men Who Take Baths to Girls Who Say Fuck. This year, she crowd-funded her first independently published book--a Dr. Seuss style guide to pleasure called 'Oh, the Places You’ll Go Oh Oh!' Don’t be shy, pick up a copy and get that blood flowing.

We were introduced to Nicolle a few years back because an assortment of acquaintances thought we would have a lot in common and they weren’t wrong. It took one wine-fuelled date to discover our souls are completely in tandem: double bad, well-read and sexually empowered.

When we asked miss DoubleL to select a book that moved her in some way or another, and to indulge us with a review of said work, the erotica author naturally chose an Anais Nin title. The French-Cuban diarist is hailed by many critics as one of the finest (and first) writers of female erotica penning works dating back to the 1930s.

On the the Book | A Spy in the House of Love by Anaïs Nin

The novel follows the character of Sabina; a woman who dares to enjoy the sexual licence that men have always known. Wearing extravagant outfits and playing dangerous games of desire, she deliberately avoids commitment, gripped by the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. In the book Nin expressed her individual vision of feminine sexuality with a ferocious dramatic force. Through Sabina's affairs with four men, she lays bare all the duplicity and fragmentation of self that is involved in the search of love.

What about this book affects you on the whole?

It speaks to the complexities of a woman’s mind. Not something complex as in neurotic or tangled, but layered and intricate and with the inclination towards curiosity expressed as sensuality that radiates outward and basks all action in the glow of the thought: what does it mean to be a free woman?

How does the Anaïs achieve this?

Through the character Sabina, with her fidgety and flighty nature, her buzzing mind, her contemplations and observations. The dance she chooses from moment to moment between comfort and familiarity, like her husband, and the exhilaration of the unknown, like passing a stranger on the street and tempting the thin veil that divides us from knowing just enough to want more.

“The enemy of love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.”

page 128

Whoa, let us sit with this one for a moment. What about this thought had you doing the same? 

Love stories always begin when the two people get together, but I am interested in who that person has been before they get to me and who I have been to bring them here. That’s my version of a love story: who am I so that I can be with you now, I ask. This quote speaks to my desire to know myself, reflected through the lovers I attract into my life at any given time. They have so much to tell me just by showing up. What do they see and who can I be?

What did the author miss? Any particular criticisms?

Some might say her character is superficial and flighty; that she “wants it all” even if that means lying to her husband, who is the only other steady character (and by steady I mean he is unchanged and consistent whenever she comes catapulting back into his life from her escapades, unbeknownst to him). As far as missing? I don’t feel I can be the judge that. Anais Nin wrote it as she did for a reason! Some say they are disappointed by the lack of resolution. Such is life.

Nicolle reading a book by the window

“Can the many women inside of us be satisfied, between sexual expression, creative inhibitions, and social restrictions? Can one indulge in one’s sensual restlessness and the relentless need for adventure without heartbreaking consequences? ”

Nicolle Hodges

If you could pull out a key learning from 'A Spy in the House of Love' for Bad Girls, what would that be? 

Considerations. Can the many women inside of us be satisfied, between sexual expression, creative inhibitions, and social restrictions? Can one indulge in one’s sensual restlessness and the relentless need for adventure without heartbreaking consequences?

Getting to know the Bad Girl

Nicolle Hodges is an author/journalist and the founder of girls who say fuck

Currently on your bedside table

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Three books you’d recommend to a stranger

Call Me By Your Name - André Aciman
Come As You Are - Emily Nagoski
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

How has reading impacted your life?

Books are portals I can jump through to different lives and times.

Most admired human

French philosopher and writer, Simone de Beauvoir

Your plan to change the world

Every unabashed act of bravery is often followed by an astute moment of clarity, as if a match is lit in the dark and for a moment you can see the way. I have become comfortable with wandering in the dark; with the unknown; with tracing the outline of something I can’t quite see but know is there, and striking a balance between intuitive reflection and action. And on this path, I meet others whom I wouldn’t have encountered had I not had the fortitude to forge onward, with grit and integrity and love abound. I will change the world by continuing to grow and build and then burn it down, this means, non-attachment but deeply loving, non-judgment but actively observing, and excavating information through my experiences and encounters to distil into teachings to rouse others to see the power in themselves.

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