Book Review #37: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
Title: The Glass Hotel: A Novel
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: 2020 (Alfred A. Knopf, New York)
Pages: 302 (Hardcover)
Genres: Literary Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary
CW: drug use, vandalism, death, violence, trauma, financial hardships
Link Here

My borrowed copy of The Glass Hotel in front of our Christmas tree

This has been the longest week, but I made it through with some books and some coffee! And speaking of books, this week I read The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, and I finally received a copy after being on a long wait list at my local library. I’ve seen a lot of praise for this one, and some mixed reviews as well. But after spending some time with this one, I really liked it by the end.

One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid” – Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel

This novel was written in the perspective of a lot of characters connected by the same events… like so many characters I stopped trying to count. This type of narrative luckily brought a lot of meaning to the dialogue, otherwise I probably would not have been able to follow the sporadic style jumping back and forth between each character/year. The story focuses around a central group of characters connected by a five-star hotel on an island off the coast of British Columbia and a Ponzi scheme led by the hotel’s owner and finance guru, Jonathan Alkaitis. The story jumps around a number of years in the 2000s. Focusing on Jonathan himself, and a bartender-turned millionaire’s trophy wife-turned-ship employee named Vincent, and a drug addicted composer named Paul, and an aging shipping executive named Leon, the wildly different cast of characters connects and fulfills their separate destinies. Their narrative is connected by bond on a similar meta-level.

I’m no expert, but I remember reading somewhere, every time you retrieve a memory, that act of retrieval, it corrupts the memory a little bit. Maybe changes it a little” – Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel

As you might be able to tell, this book can be difficult to describe. This novel is a mysterious thriller, but at the same time it reminds me of author David Mitchell’s sort of speculative writing and prose. The beginning for me was rather slow, but after the first quarter it picked up quickly until I was turning page after page, trying to anticipate what would happen next. At first I was afraid I was not going to like this one, but after I became invested, I knew I was going to keep enjoying it. The end was so-so (I won’t spoil it here), but at least it wasn’t a completely incomplete ending for such speculative a novel.

Give me quiet, he thought, give me forests and ocean and no roads. Give me the walk to the village through the woods in summer, give me the sound of wind in cedar branches, give me mist rising over the water, give me the view of green branches from my bathtub in the mornings. Give me a place with no people in it, because I will never fully trust another person again” – Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel

This is the first book I’ve read by Mandel, but I’ve heard her other novels are very good. And I don’t read many books that take place partially in Canada so that was interesting for me as well. The way the author brings insight into her characters made this novel worthwhile, and it made me really interested (yet temporarily) in the finance world and the collapses of Ponzi schemes. The story itself was well written, and the plot development came together nicely eventually.

… You know how rare it is to work with someone who loves their life?” – Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel

Why should you read this book? If you love mysterious and contemporary thrillers that bring speculative insight into the finance world and bonds between damaged persons, this is the book for you. Overall, this novel explored a lot of themes about being human, and how we deal with our ghosts. It can be a lot to take in at times, but this novel will keep you thinking.

I give this one a 4 out of 5!


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2 thoughts on “Book Review #37: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (2020)

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