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The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

As reviewed on The Cafe, TV3!

Emily St. John Mandel was born in Canada and studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, before becoming a writer. She has written four previous novels, including the award-winning Station Eleven, and she now lives in New York.

Station Eleven is one of my favourite books of all time, so I approached Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel with a great deal of enthusiasm. I wasn’t disappointed in this multi-layered plot that goes back and forth in time and location.

Vincent is a beautiful young woman bartending in a remote luxury hotel when she catches the eye of the New York financier, Jonathan, who owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it is the start of their lives together.

The same day, a hooded figure writes a note on the windows of the hotel that says, ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.’ But Leon, a shipping executive, sees the graffiti from the hotel bar and is distressed by it.

These three stories come together to a moment thirteen years later, when Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a container ship. The novel begins at the end, with the shock of Vincent falling down the side of the ship in a wild storm.

The Glass Hotel is a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime and moral compromise, with the stories weaving masterfully back and forth. Some of the characters go from what they call ‘The Kingdom of Money’ to losing it all, and it has a haunting parable quality.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan Publishers