The Glass Room

This edgy historical novel (406 pages) was published in October of 2009 by Other Press. The book takes you to Brno in the Czech Republic. read The Glass Room and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if didn't recommend it.

amazon
buy
bookshop.org
buy

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

rule

The Glass Room

Simon Mawer

The well-researched and melodramatic (in a good way) novel is set in and around a modernist villa in the Czech city of Brno. Ccalled the Landauer house in the book, it’s based on the real life Villa Tugendhat.

All of the details about the villa itself are true, but the people who live in it — and the things that happen to them — are fiction, although many of the details around the events of WWII and the Communist regime are based in fact.

It’s the 1920s in Czechoslovakia. Newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer are young, in love, and optimist about the future. One of them is Jewish, and they’re from a privileged background; this will be of dire importance later. As a family wedding gift, they are able to commission modernist architect Rainer von Abt to build them a house like no one has ever seen before. It will be sleek, functional, devoid of the elaborate decorations of the previous century.

When it’s finished, the villa is open and airy, literally a glass house that barely separates the people inside from the world outside; everything is on display. But the glass also acts as a mirror, reflecting them back to themselves. And the foreboding atmosphere — of the coming war, of deceit — ground the novel in mild claustrophobia that neatly contrasts with the transparency and optimism of the house.

The experiences of the residents through the war and the rise of Communism are told through the lens of the house: The villa itself frames the narrative and is central to the characters’ life stories.

This is a beautifully brutal WWII tale that closely examines the various and complicated kinds of love that shape us as humans, as well as betrayal, family, sexuality, power dynamics, fear, and wealth. The ugly events are handled with delicacy, and there are genuine moments of tenderness, too, but the emotional palette is mostly grays with occasional punches of red.

It’s dark and unsettling — how could a WWII story be anything else? — but the writing is so good and the pages turn themselves with suspense.

“Well, it’s too good to last, isn’t it?” says Hana.

“What is?”

“Everything.”

“What do you mean, everything?”

“The good times. All this. The world we live in.” — Simon Mawer

keep reading

Prague's stunning architecture and magical atmosphere make it one of Europe's must-visit cities. But we love it because it's full of stories. Everywhere you look, there's a tale to be told, a mystery to unravel.
Episode 01 of The Strong Sense of Place podcast — Prague: Cobblestones and Castles. Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, world's best beer, and ghosts.

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas 2020!

This 30-page 2020 Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is © 2020 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.