Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Opening sentence: “Begin at the end: plummeting down the side of the ship in the storm’s wild darkness, breath gone with the shock of falling, my camera flying away through the rain – “

I must start this review with a caveat: Station Eleven, also by Emily St. John Mandel, was one of my surprise reads of last year. I picked it up as I’d vaguely heard good things about it and it had a huge impact on me that I was not expecting. The writing, the story, the message – EVERYTHING – I just loved it. SO, when I saw that Emily St. John Mandel had a new book out this year, I was both eager and apprehensive to read it. Could it be as great as Station Eleven? Well… yes and no. For the reasons I just explained. Which is what I mean by caveat: my feeling towards The Glass Hotel are biased due to my love of Station Eleven.

So, the bar was perhaps unattainably high when I started reading, although certain elements I fell for straight away: the author’s lyrical tone of voice is here, as are her unique and beautifully executed characters. ALSO, I can’t tell you how happy it made me when there were DIRECT REFERENCES to Station Eleven. I love authors that cross reference their own work, especially in this circumstance.

This novel tells the story of a range of characters; Vincent and her half brother Paul work in the glass hotel (Hotel Caiette) of the title and it is there that the events that happen to them – and the people they meet – pivot their lives. There are multiple threads woven together in a sort of dreamy way, jumping timelines that don’t annoy but feel nicely retrospective; everything, very impressively, comes together in the end.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of plot time dedicated to a financial Ponzi scheme scam that didn’t rivet me and I felt one of the most interesting characters, Paul, had a story we were only told about in passing. Personally, I’d liked to have discovered more about him and less about the money scam plot.

The ending though, was poetic, so I did finish reading it on a high – if slightly sad – note. The Glass Hotel is very evocative and drew me in with its beautiful writing. I guess I knew it was never going to be a Station Eleven for me, but that’s not to say it’s not a great read.

I’m so intrigued to know your thoughts on this one, especially if you’re also a fan of Station Eleven. Let me know below!

/ Thank you you to NetGalley for the ARC.

/ Published by Picador 30th April 2020

/ 320 pages

/ Rating: 4/5

 

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