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The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Fresh off the success of Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel has a new book coming out on March 24 called The Glass House.

The first thing you need to know is that this book is not the dystopian novel Station Eleven is. The Glass House is very different. The second thing you need to know is that the character named Vincent is female.

With those two things out of the way, The Glass House is one of the most highly anticipated novels of 2020, if you ask the publishing industry, that is. Just look at the promotional material:

New York Times “20 Books We’re Watching For in 2020”

An Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Bustle, Buzzfeed, GoodReads, The Millions, Boston Globe, USA Today, and Women’s Day Most Anticipated Book

As we have already learned this year (see American Dirt), the publishing industry is not always right, so let’s keep an open mind about The Glass House. Here is a good review, and a bad one too.

The Good – From Paromjit “Emily St. John Mandel writes an exquisite other worldly novel, slightly surreal as if peering through a misted looking glass, of alternative realities, paths not taken, ghosts, of a diverse and disparate cast of characters, their lives and connections revealed as the narrative goes back and forth in time. It is a story of greed, immense wealth, a financial empire built on the shifting sands of an international Ponzi scheme, reflecting the real life example of Bernie Madoff, and the financial collapse in 2008. Mandel tracks her victims and perpetrators with their interwoven lives, the characterization sharp yet subtle, nuanced, with the capacity to see the humanity of both in a profoundly moving way. She intricately pieces together different lives, structured to intrigue, with answers that comes together holistically at the end.”

The Bad – From Bethany Everett “This is a really hard book to rate for me because I feel as if this simply was just not a book. This was a collection of life struggles and lessons and observations through a million different characters, and you never really get the satisfaction of understanding. There was no real story to this, in the traditional sense. This felt to me like a book of short stories all mashed together into a confusing ball of a book. I enjoyed the start, as it follows one character (Paul) through grief and understanding that his actions can cause a ripple in the lives of others, but then everything quickly changed perspective… many times. I think if the story would’ve stuck with Paul and Vincent, I would’ve been fine. But to get all this backstory of other characters through random outside sources just threw me off. I can’t even properly explain or express the book I just read, I’m just left with confusion and a feeling that I’m missing something big, that this was some sort of puzzle and I’m not seeing the full picture. Or maybe the message of this novel is that life is made up of a mash of wayward memories and grief and regret and past mistakes, all tangled up in a completely meaningless life in the grand scheme of things.”

4 thoughts on “The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. I wonder why the switch of genres. I loved Station Eleven but this one doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy…

  2. I read Wolf Hall and loved it!

  3. This is so cool. I’m reading Station 11 right now (again, because I’m unreasonably obsessed with the coronavirus). I was just wondering last night if Mandel had put anything else out. Since her writing and storytelling skills are so fantastic, I’m hoping her book works and becomes a new favorite. I work at a library in a small Pennsylvania town, and Station 11 has gotten zero attention here. I keep putting it on the staff picks display but there it was, on the shelf, in the middle of a pandemic, waiting for me to grab.

  4. Hmm…this was on my tbr, but looks like it could be a pass now. Maybe if I’m feeling ultra patient and hear more good reviews.

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