Listen. I know it’s been a rough few weeks, but I have some phenomenal news, Savvy Readers… Emily St. John Mandel, the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of (the frighteningly topical) Station Eleven, is back with a brand new novel and I am so excited to tell you all a little bit about it!
First things first, here’s a quick plot description: A hotel bartender at a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on Vancouver Island. A wealthy financier based out of New York. A mysterious hooded figure who leaves a deeply disturbing message for all the hotel guests and workers to see. A shipping executive who is shaken to his core by the message. Thirteen years later, the very same bartender disappears from the deck of a cargo ship. The Glass Hotel is an ambitious, haunting, and beautifully crafted story that is unlike anything you’ve ever read.
To really do this book justice, though, you just have to read it. Yes, it’s kaleidoscopic and sweeping and haunting and beautiful, but it’s a novel that you have to take your time with. At the heart of the novel is the disappearance of Vincent, a young bartender turned socialite. Or, is the heart of the novel the implosion of a billion dollar Ponzi scheme? Or, is the heart of the novel actually the shocking and offensive graffiti left on a window at a remote hotel that changes the lives of everyone involved? All of these things (and more) are true when it comes to The Glass Hotel. It is a novel that totally defies both tradition and expectations, and one that you need to spend some time with to fully appreciate everything that Emily St. John Mandel is doing.
If you can’t tell, it’s really hard for me to talk about this book without giving everything away. So, instead of talking about the plot, I’ll talk about the reading experience. If you’ve read Station Eleven, you will already know that Emily St. John Mandel is an expert when it comes to crafting smart, magnetic characters that you can’t help but be drawn to, and The Glass Hotel is no exception to this fact. What is interesting, though, is how the writing in this book becomes a character in and of itself.
Another thing that I loved about The Glass Hotel was Emily St. John Mandel‘s ability to subvert our expectations. After reading the synopsis, I expected a financial thriller. What I got instead was a haunting, beautiful rumination on money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts (yes, those kinds of ghosts!), and morality, with a hint of finance and a hint of suspense. The Glass Hotel is a Russian nesting doll of a novel that is seriously unlike anything I have ever read before.
I’ve been saying it since about March of last year, when I first read an early version of this book, and I will say it again here: The Glass Hotel is the best book I read in 2019, and I will never shut up about it. I highly, highly recommend you read it, too.