The Glass Hotel

Quick Review

There’s something about the writing that makes this book feel like it’s magical despite it being based in something so human, it is sometimes a bit hard to read. It feels like we are looking into a parallel universe where a few people made the choices they made and then had a few regrets, The characters were intriguing and well-developed.

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

It is a great book, but it does require some patience and time to really get your head around what is going on. There are a lot of characters and a lot of timelines happening and you need to be paying attention.

There is a bit of a requirement to suspend disbelief due to so many people being so coincidentally connected and coming in and out of each other’s lives, but once you get past that it really is quite absorbing to just watch it all unfold. I don’t know that I particularly liked any of the characters but I did appreciate all of their journeys. This novel moves from an obscure hotel on the north coast of Vancouver Island to New York to a container ship off the coast of Mauritius, and is about siblings, the Country of Money, ponzi schemes, ghosts and counterlives for all the regrets in a life. 

The Glass Hotel provides a surprising and refreshing change of scenery for Emily St. John Mandel. Given that her last book was a wildly successful tale of a post-apocalypse, the world of investment banking might be the last subject you would expect her to focus on next. But there are some similarities between the novels – both of them examine the consequences of a catastrophic event, and in each story, the lives of disparate characters intersect in unexpected ways. I really want to gush about this novel but I can’t Any gushing would just be spoiler-filled and somehow diminish the read.

An absolutely beautiful Novel everyone should read this.