Emerence is a domestic servant – strong, fierce, eccentric, and with a reputation for being a first-rate housekeeper. When Magda, a young Hungarian writer, takes her on she never imagines how important this woman will become to her. It takes twenty years for a complex trust between them to be slowly, carefully built. But Emerence has secrets and vulnerabilities beneath her indomitable exterior which will test Magda’s friendship and change the complexion of both their lives irreversibly.
‘Szabó manages to conjure up as many cliffhangers as an Indiana Jones film. The Door is a triumph. Clever, moving, frightening, it deserves to be a bestseller’ Tibor Fischer, Daily Telegraph
In this poignant but long-winded novel by the late Hungarian author Szab , a writer recounts her decades-long relationship with and eventual betrayal of her enigmatic and emotionally volatile housekeeper. The story opens in postwar Hungary, narrated from old age by the protagonist, who remains unnamed for much of the novel. After having their careers "politically frozen," the narrator and her husband (also a writer) begin to work again and seek out domestic help for their new home in Budapest. They hire Emerence Szered s, a local peasant with an air of authority and "strength like a Valkyrie." Though Emerence initially proves an antagonistic worker attacking the narrator's belief in God, for instance she eventually develops a deep affection for, and reliance upon, her employers. Over the years, she reveals secrets about her childhood and her peripheral involvement in Hungary's troubled political past, ultimately inviting the narrator into her apartment, which she notoriously and suspiciously protects. Szab is a master tension builder, and Emerence's demise (foretold in the novel's opening pages) is heartbreakingly rendered. But an abundance of unnecessary detail weighs down what is otherwise a lucid and politically intriguing character study.