Friday, June 26, 2020

The Glass Hotel

Title:  The Glass Hotel
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2020. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0525521143 / 978-0525521143

Book Source:  I read this book based on the author's prior work.

Opening Sentence:  "Begin at the end:  plummeting down the side fo the ship in the storm's wild darkness, breath gone with the shock of falling, my camera flying away through the rain..."

Favorite Quote:  "There's something in it ... It's possible to know you're a criminal, a liar, a man of weak moral character, and yet now know it, in the sense of feeling that your punishment is somehow underserved that despite the cold facts you're deserving of warmth and some kind of special treatment. You can know you're guilty of an enormous crime ... you can know all of this and yet still somehow feel you've been wronged when your judgement arrives."

To some extent, this book is similar to Station Eleven by the author. The story winds through past and present through the many different perspectives - Paul, Vincent, Jonathan Alkaitis, Olivia, and others. Not all the characters are directly connected, or so it seems. The book shifts between narrative styles. Character threads pick and drop sometimes in the middle of a chapter. Just when I think I have figured out who the story is about and where it's going, it shifts.

Yet, Station Eleven still surprising came together as a whole. Unfortunately, that also means this book suffers from the high expectations set by the other.

If I think of each character, his or her story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Put all together and interspersed with each other, the flow is more challenging. This book is much easier to read and understand once I stop envisioning the whole and start seeing each character as a vignette. 

The outcomes of each character's story are not necessarily connected to seemingly main plot line of the book. Some, in fact, seem somewhat random.  That perhaps is my biggest reason for my reaction - the randomness of what happens to the individual characters. It's like a pinball machine. An action sets things in motion, but then the character are buffeted from consequence to consequence.

All the characters have a connection to the hotel, but given that the title and the cover, I expected the hotel to feature a greater role in the book. I am introduced to that beautiful setting, and then it somewhat disappears.

Finally, the characters themselves are somewhat shrouded in the mist that appears on the cover. Perhaps because of the shifting narratives or perhaps by design, the characters are not particularly likable and do not evolve into characters I relate to.

The one theme that appears to repeat is the power that money conveys and the extent to which people will go to acquire and retain that power. "Money is its own country." Ultimately, that money and its source have its own ramification in these character's stories. As the book description states, the "plot" of the book is about a Ponzi scheme.

However, plot is a bit of a stretch as this book does not follow that plot line really. It is inferred from the events leading up to the collapse of the scheme and about the ramifications for different people. If
the Ponzi scheme is like a rock dropped in a pond, the "plot" of this book is all about the ripples - perhaps concentric, perhaps not connected, eventually subsiding back into the quiet of the pond.

Based on how much I enjoyed Station Eleven, I am puzzled by this book but still look forward to seeing what Emily St. John Mandel writes next.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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