October 25, 2009

The Glass Room - Simon Mawer

Even though The Glass Room was shortlisted for the 2009 Booker Prize I had not heard a great deal about it. I did however see the great (and positive) reviews for it from Jackie and Samantha which meant I kept it on my radar. I am so glad I did because as Jackie says at the start of her review - even though this isn't a book I might have ordinarily picked up I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking out for more of Mawer's work in the future.

In many ways the central character of The Glass Room is the room (or house) itself. Built in a Czech town in the 1930's by newly married and quite wealthy couple Viktor and Liesel Landauer the house is a new direction in architecture - moving away from the fussiness and intricateness of the designs of the late 1800's and into a cleaner, starker more modern future. For Viktor and Leisel the house is more than a place to eat and sleep - it represents who they are, who they want to be and the direction they see their life taking.

Unfortunately for the Landauer family World War 2 intervenes in their plans. Viktor, as a Jew, feels that the safest option is to leave their home and their country and travel to Switzerland. The house remains of course and we see it pass through the hands of the Nazi establishment and other organisations before returning, in a sense, to the way that it began.

The narrative of this novel flows beautifully and I felt that the way that the author captured, described and demonstrated the many different relationships (including different characters relationships with the house) within the novel showed an amazing capability for understanding people and their motives - and just how complex these are. The author obviously has a great passion for his subject in this novel and I feel that he passes this on to his reader.

Has anyone read any other books by Simon Mawer - I am wondering where I should go next??


Unknown said...

I would love to read more of Simon Mawer's books. I have The Fall in my TBR pile now, but I haven't read it yet. It doesn't look very good from the outside, but then The Glass Room didn't either. I'll let you know what I think in the nearish future!

Paperback Reader said...

I was so happy to have found this book through the Booker shortlist as it wouldn't have appealed normally. I would like to read more Simon Mawer in the future but it's not something I'm contemplating yet.

Steph said...

This is one of the few titles from the shortlist that appealed to me, in large part because of the great reviews it got from book bloggers - I'm glad to see you felt similarly positive about it! Unfortunately, I think it is still unavailable in the U.S., thought hopefully in the coming months that will change!

Amanda said...

Oh that sounds interesting. It sounds like something I'd like to read. Thanks!

Nadia said...

Sounds wonderful! Can't wait to get this one! I loved the cover of the book you read, the one I have seen here in the US is not nearly as nice. Anyhow, will definitely be picking up this one soon! Great review! Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

I was also unfamiliar with Mawer until I saw his book on the Booker prize list this year. After I read the description, I thought it sounded interesting, and the few reviews I've seen have only convinced me to add it to the TBR pile.

Football Chick said...

Actually it's just out in the US! It's available on Amazon and will be in stores this week and next.

Kim said...

This sounds really interesting, especially as I am in a bit of a WWII era phase with my reading choices. I will definitely pick this up now next time I see it.
Thank you for the review, Karen.

Karen said...

Hi Jackie - Looking forward to hearing what you think about that one!

Hi Claire - I feel the same way about this one - makes me wonder how many other wonderful books I am missing out on??

Hi Steph - I hope this book makes it to you in the US soon. I always thought Australia was behind everyone else in terms of books being published but it looks like this is not always the case!

Hi Amanda - I hope you enjoy it if you do pick it up.

Hi Nadia - it is an interesting cover but I have to say it didn't really appeal to me all that much - lucky what was on the inside was fantastic!

Hi eveningreader - I really hope you enjoy it when it gets to the top of your pile.

Hi FootballChick - thanks for the update!

Hi Kim - it sounds like this one would be perfect for you right now!

booklineandsinker said...

i have yet to read anything by mawer, but after reading your review i think i need to remedy that!

the book sounds so beautiful and your review makes me want to put this at the top of my list.

thanks for putting this one on my radar!

Tamara said...

Karen, this could be one I'd like to pick up. I'm fascinated by the main character being the house. It's a similar theme to one I recently read 'the last song of dusk', where the house carries with it the passions of it's past. Thanks for the review and I hope you find more Mawers to munch on..

Karen said...

Hi Natalie - I would definitely recommend this one - hope you like it when you get to it.

Hi T - If I had read your comment before today I would have brought this one for you! Oh well - remind me next time and I will bring it along.

Anonymous said...

I'm hankering for this book but I have to wait in line at the library. It's funny how it's not as widely advertised in stores in Oz. I've heard nothing but good things about this book and the cover is awesome to boot.

Samantha said...

I thought this book "had it all" in a way. Multi-layered and characterised and on topics that are perennial favourites and others I knew nothing about. I think I will be investigating The Fall soon.

Karen said...

Hi madbibliophile - I had a hard time tracking down this book in Australia too. When I finally found it in a bookshop it was the only copy there.

Hi Samantha - looking forward to hearing what you think about your next Mawer read - I'm finding it hard to find copies of his other books.