The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Rating – 4.63 out of 5

In the time before the 2008 financial crash, there is a hotel in Western Canada. Life at this hotel is disrupted one evening when the words ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass?’ are scrawled on a window in acid. This one act brings together some of the people at the center of the financial crisis in America. Exploring themes of money, beauty, wealth and loss, The Glass Hotel is a story about the people at the center of it all. The ones that brought the whole system down.

Why I liked The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

As someone who has read many of Emily St. John Mandel’s books, I was excited to dive into one about the financial crisis. She often writes about people at the edges of a crisis, those that are affected but not always in power. This book is a little bit different in that it is about the people in the center of the crisis. The ones that caused it; the ones that were in power. She has written about the financial crisis before in  The Lola Quartet but this shows a different side. It shows how people in power can slip and how moral bankruptcy happens in a million small moments and not one big on.

There is something visceral about the way that St. John Mandel writes that captures the ineffable of human emotions. She brilliantly charts the beginnings of who these people were, how they connected and affected each other, and how they remained connected in the end. She writes on a grand scale that begs questions about not only this life but the next. I find the soft loneliness of the people in this novel so tangible and similar to my own experience at times. I have never been in situations so dire, but the sadness that surrounds her characters feels familiar.

Honestly, St. John Mandel is ahead of her time and it is hard not to think about it when reading this novel. She’s already written a book about a pandemic that was one of the best books of the last decade. She has shown us how connection can drive us to great heights and now has also shown us how that same connection can drive us to depths. It’s hard to write about any of her books without thinking of Station Eleven, especially now.

I’m writing this as my county has just been ordered to Shelter in Place and we as a nation are most likely entering our next recession. I think now more than ever novels like this are important to understand our roles in an uncertain situation. While I can’t exactly recommend Station Eleven at the moment, I do hope that you read St. John Mandel’s work as a whole and slip into her world to better understand our own.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel is available on March 24th from Knopf from wherever books are sold. Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for this review.

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