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The Glass Room

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Mawer has created a tale which easily holds the interest of the reader from page one until the last.

The Glass Room
Simon Mawer
The author has captured the time in Europe, just after World War I when hopes were high for the future, straight through the ensuing decades when hopes were dashed; time travels seamlessly through World War II with the ultimate Communist tak...
The Glass Room
Simon Mawer
The author has captured the time in Europe, just after World War I when hopes were high for the future, straight through the ensuing decades when hopes were dashed; time travels seamlessly through World War II with the ultimate Communist take-over of several countries and then across the ocean to America, where the future is being made and some ultimately find safety from the turmoil, death and destruction overseas. The book spans almost 7 decades as we travel with the Landauers through their memories and those of the people who touched their lives in the house they had built for themselves, which represented a hopeful future, without encumbrances, where everyone would be free and life would be transparent. The house is the connection for all of the characters as it is the repository of those memories. Eventually the "glasraum" (the glass room which is the central part of the house.architecturally beautiful and without artifice), brings the survivors all full circle, back to the beginning of the history of the house, where the memories were made and connects it to a time in 1990. Socialism has proven to be a total failure.and the house has been restored to its former glory.
As the pages turned, I found myself holding my breath, finding it very hard to read, as the fear and anger of the times, coupled with other varied emotions, assaulted my senses with every word and every image the author created. The apparent apathy and ignorance of the populace was unnerving. They were sitting ducks when the enemy finally pounced. They were totally unprepared for the evil that befell them and those that escaped the evil, turned a blind eye so as not to let it touch them. The emotional distance from which they viewed the hardships around them was hard to contemplate without fury at their complacence.
It is ironic that the Glass Room was built to represent art, form and transparency at a time when the most duplicitous evil ruler rose to power. Rather than the high form of beauty, represented by the house, horror rose out of Germany and spread its disease across Europe.
The characters, places and circumstances are introduced and then simply disappear, in much the same way as people disappeared and circumstances changed, during World War II. One moment they were all right and the next, they were never seen again.
Hitler's evil and his takeover of power was subtle and deceitful. With very few nightmarish explanations and very little horrifying imagery, the author definitely evokes the horror, injustice, fear, treachery and all other aspects of World War II. It is not your typical Holocaust novel since it is about so much more. but it sheds light on that era with amazing clarity and shows the progression of society over the following decades.

posted by thewanderingjew on July 7, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Wouldn't pay for it again.

I loved the language of this book. I really anticipated a rich, deep story of history, architecture, and love. I wanted to love the story...it built and grew to something I anticipated to be wonderful. At some point the author decided that this was a story of some peo...
I loved the language of this book. I really anticipated a rich, deep story of history, architecture, and love. I wanted to love the story...it built and grew to something I anticipated to be wonderful. At some point the author decided that this was a story of some people, mixed up in a political mess, living in a really awesome house. Then the house was not connected and we were reading about a lesbian woman, a boring family and a prostitute and her daughter. Close to the end the author introduces us to some uninteresting characters who are only needed to make a plot point, but are needed for nothing else. I am still trying to figure out why the obsession with public hair in the 2nd half of the book...

posted by tumbledry on January 3, 2011

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Moral Choices

    In the late 1920's, Czech honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer consider themselves part of the new, vibrant European philosophy of liberal thought focused on the arts and benignly agnostic. They meet an architect starting his career in Vienna who exemplifies the new thought and hire him to build them a house created from the minimalist school where the heavy designs of the past are out. Instead, they want a house with open areas, minimal furniture and clear visions both inside and out. Spare in design, the house has living quarters upstairs and the lower floor is one vast glassed room that overlooks the city. Young, wealthy and valued patrons of the arts, the Laundauers seem to have it all.

    But gilded perfect lives rarely stay that way. There are strains on the marriage as the years pass. Children arrive and their love moves to a settled relationship and each starts to venture outside the marriage for friendship and romance. As the years pass and move inevitably towards the mid-1940's, all of Europe changes with the advent of the Nazi Party and Hitler's unstoppable drive to rule all that he sees. Viktor is Jewish. He is not observant, but that makes no difference. Viktor clearly sees what is coming. He manages to convince Liesel that they must leave, and with their children, nanny and her child who has been raised with their children, they move to Switzerland. They learn what is going on from friends and family that remain behind. All that they treasured is lost. Many of their friends are caught up in the Nazi horrors and their glorious house built to celebrate a new age is now a "research station" where people are measured in an attempt to find the markers that separate Jew from non-Jew.

    The Glass Room has a 2009 finalist for the Man Booker Prize. In it, Mawer leads the reader through the horror of what man can do to man without clubbing them over the head with unceasing details. He also shows how men and women hurt each other while trying to carve out a place of safety and love for themselves. The book not only covers the years of World War II, but the Communist era that followed in this area. It is highly recommended for all readers and is a book I'll remember for a long time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Now to read all of his others

    The Glass Room was captivating. The central character, the house itself, reflects upon a real glass house by the architect Mies van der Rohr (sp?). In truth, the characters sometimes struggle to star in comparison to the sterling descriptions of the house. Nonetheless, most of them do star and remain in my memory, weeks later. Now I will read all of Mawer's novels including his first which is out of print. He is a writer to gobble up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very well written - with some unexpected twists.

    Simon Mawer did an excellent job at creating his characters and drawing the reader into the characters' lives. Mawer obviously did quite a bit of research into the period. Although at times the action was a bit flat, an unexpected twist or event would almost shock the reader into needing to see what happened next.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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