The Glass Room – Simon Mawer

Title: The Glass Room
Author: Simon Mawer
ISBN: 9781590513965
Pages: 416
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Publisher: Other Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publicist
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

It’s the 1920’s in Czechoslovakia, and Viktor and Liesel Landauer are newlyweds.  They want to build a beautiful home to raise their children in, a place they can call their own.  They meet with a famous architect who builds them an incredibly unique and striking home.  Ultra-modern, it’s made mostly of glass and has a pure onyx wall.  Viktor and Liesel settle down in their brand new house, thinking they are safe from the world, but they will be tested by infidelity, disloyalty, and the horrors of World War II.

Review:

The Glass Room isn’t about a room at all, but a house that manages to stand the test of time, the ravages of war and uncertainty of peace.  The story of the people who live in that house, from its glorious beginnings on, make up the meat of the novel, but it is the house itself that is its frame.  In that way, the Landauer house is actually its own character in the book, living, breathing and growing dynamically as it adapts to its change in circumstances.  It becomes something different for everyone who occupies it, molding itself to suit their needs and wishes.

This book is also about the contrast between darkness and light.  The Landauer house is made of glass, exposed for all to see, yet there is much darkness hidden within those who live and work in it.  The secrets of the glass house’s occupants dampen its brightness.  Additionally, the coming of World War II and all the despair it will bring casts a shadow over the house.  But through it all, the glass house remains, a beacon of light and hope in the darkest times.

Liesel Landauer is arguably the central character of the book (besides the house, of course), as much of The Glass Room is taken by her story.  She is a sharp, sensitive woman who is ahead of her time.  Along with her best friend Hana, she defies social conventions, living on her own terms.  Though she experiences plenty of sadness and tragedy in her life, Liesel is a strong, hopeful woman who never allows what is going on around her to dampen her spirits or mold her into what she is expected to be.

Though The Glass Room is set during the years surrounding World War II, it’s not your typical World War II novel.  It’s much more about the people, and how they get through each day, than the overarching events of the time.  Politics definitely plays a role in this book, especially since Viktor Landauer is Jewish, but it’s much more about how circumstances affect these individual characters and the house than about the war,

The Glass Room was a well-written novel that spans sixty years in the life of a house.  It’s a breathtaking work of fiction, and it’s completely understandable why it was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.  If you’re interested in symbolic novels that are heavily character-driven, I’d definitely pick this book up.

Comments

  1. I’ve read a few reviews of this (of course I never remember where) but I like the sound of it. I like this time period, which automatically forces circumstances on people and causes them to react in ways they otherwise would not. Nice review!

  2. I’ve read a few reviews of this (of course I never remember where) but I like the sound of it. I like this time period, which automatically forces circumstances on people and causes them to react in ways they otherwise would not. Nice review!

  3. I’ll be reading this soon, so I’m glad to see you liked it.

  4. I’ll be reading this soon, so I’m glad to see you liked it.

  5. This sounds like such a great book. I loved your review – it was detailed and honest and completely made me want to go out and buy this book and read it straightaway. I have definitely added this one to my ever growing list of books to buy. Thanks! 🙂

  6. This sounds like such a great book. I loved your review – it was detailed and honest and completely made me want to go out and buy this book and read it straightaway. I have definitely added this one to my ever growing list of books to buy. Thanks! 🙂

  7. Oh gosh! This is a terrific review. I am intrigued. I will see if I can track this down.

  8. Oh gosh! This is a terrific review. I am intrigued. I will see if I can track this down.

  9. I started reading this book before Christmas. Silly me, it was a library book, and was on reserve for another patron. Since I already was hooked, I purchased the book. Your review reinforces my initial feelings about this book. A five-star review!!

  10. I started reading this book before Christmas. Silly me, it was a library book, and was on reserve for another patron. Since I already was hooked, I purchased the book. Your review reinforces my initial feelings about this book. A five-star review!!

  11. Sounds like it would make a fantastic discussion book too!

  12. Sounds like it would make a fantastic discussion book too!

  13. I remember hearing about this book- it was just recently released, wasn’t it? It sounded great and your review makes it sound really deep, too 🙂

  14. I remember hearing about this book- it was just recently released, wasn’t it? It sounded great and your review makes it sound really deep, too 🙂

  15. Great review. I plan to read this in 2010, and hope I like it. I just read another review today and they did not like this book??

  16. Great review. I plan to read this in 2010, and hope I like it. I just read another review today and they did not like this book??

  17. This sounds like an interesting read! And I would love to read about this era as well!

  18. This sounds like an interesting read! And I would love to read about this era as well!

  19. Amazing! This book sounds breathtakingly beautiful! It’s a must-read for me!

  20. Amazing! This book sounds breathtakingly beautiful! It’s a must-read for me!

  21. Wow. This book sounds amazing. Another one for the list. Great review.

  22. Wow. This book sounds amazing. Another one for the list. Great review.

  23. I liked your thoughts about darkness and light…great observation!

    I loved this book – just couldn’t put it down. Mawer’s writing held me enthrall.

  24. I liked your thoughts about darkness and light…great observation!

    I loved this book – just couldn’t put it down. Mawer’s writing held me enthrall.

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