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.

The glass hotel emily st john mandel book review

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 to NetGalley for the ARC;
  • Published by Picador 30th April 2020;
  • 320 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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