The Door02 May 2016
I was recently thinking about great films set in a single location. Films like Rosemarie’s Baby, Moon, Dogtooth, Clerks, and Clue came to mind. Magda Szabo’s The Door could be considered a book set in a single location. Although we get a few changes of scenery and a few major plot points, the book largely progresses by revealing more about the two central characters - Magda and Emerence. Of Emerence, we learn more and more about her past, why she became the person she is, and what motivates her to live her life as a laconic, but also acerbic, house keeper. Similarly, we learn about Magda’s religiosity, her writing, her relationship with her husband and her unending interest in knowing more about Emerence. All of this is unraveled through beautiful writing, translated from its original Hungarian.
A through line can be found between this book and Elana Ferrante’s Neopolitan series. Not only because at the center of these two novels is a friendship between two fascinating women, but also because we explore this relationship through the eyes of only one of the participants, and we spend most of our time fascinated (on behalf of the narrator) by the character who isn’t speaking for herself. In Ferrante’s My Brilliant Best Friend we get a portrait of childhood and young-adulthood. In The Door we get deeper, more colorful life almost entirely because we’re dealing with complicated adults, with complicated past lives. For my money, this was a far more interesting book.