The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: I Have Mixed Feelings

Glass HotelFiction – Literary
Released March 24, 2020
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Knopf)

Headline

The Glass Hotel felt like two different books mashed together…and I wish Mandel had focused solely on the story involving the Ponzi scheme.

Plot Summary

While bartending at the upscale Hotel Caiette, Vincent meets the hotel’s owner (Jonathan Alkaitis), leading to a life with him that ends with Vincent disappearing from a container ship 13 years after the unraveling of a Ponzi scheme.

Why I Read The Glass Hotel

The Glass Hotel‘s plot seemed outrageous, but I was going to read it regardless because I loved Station Eleven (my review) so much. Also, Annie Jones (my #1 book recommendation source) rated it 5 stars.

Major Themes

Guilt, Wealth, Life Choices

What I Liked

  • The overall plot was interesting and I wanted to know what was going to happen.
  • This novel felt like two books mashed together in a bookend-style arrangement. A story about Vincent and her life comprised the beginning and end (the bookends), while a story about the unraveling of a Ponzi scheme (inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal) made up the middle. I was fascinated with this part of the story because I loved the focus on each of the brokerage firm’s employee’s reactions to the possibility of discovery.
  • The Ponzi scheme segment was told from a collective perspective (like The Mothers and We Wish You Luck) with the “collective” being the brokerage firm’s employees, excluding the CEO. I’ve loved this narration device lately and think it gives a dramatic incident a mysterious and speculative feel that adds intrigue to the overall story.

What I Didn’t Like

  • I was somewhat confused by the entire book. It’s disjointed and includes too many disparate characters and storylines that don’t add much to the whole. I had trouble coming up with the “Major Themes” section of this post and I don’t think it’s a good sign when a reader is stumped as to what a book they just read was about.
  • I would’ve DNF’d this in the first 10% if it hadn’t been written by Mandel. 
  • Back in November, I was a guest on the Currently Reading podcast and I talked about a particular book that I wished had actually been a different book than the one that was written (After the Flood). I feel the same about The Glass Hotel. Instead of a book driven by Vincent’s story, I wish Mandel had written a book about the fallout of the Ponzi scheme from the perspective of the people who were caught up in the wreckage (and Vincent could’ve been one of those people). I would’ve loved more backstory about the brokerage firm employees. Instead of leading with Vincent’s story and building out from there, I wish she’d led with the Ponzi scheme and built out the surrounding players.
  • There is a coldness to the main characters. I didn’t feel much for Vincent even though I should’ve been rooting for her. Because I didn’t care much about Vincent, I thought the ending was lackluster…since it hinges on figuring out what happened to Vincent on the container ship.
  • I was left thinking “what was the point?”

A Defining Quote

We had crossed a line, that much was obvious, but it was difficult to say later exactly where that line had been. Or perhaps we’d all had different lines, or crossed the same line at different times.

Good for People Who Like…

Plot driven books, bizarre / odd stories

Other Books You May Like

I really can’t think of any comparable titles!

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Glass Hotel

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1 Comments

  1. Jan wrote:

    I’m one of the outliers who didn’t care for Station Eleven. Kind of hated it actually, so this wasn’t on my tbr. I wavered when I saw a few people whose tastes align with my own love it, but your thoughts seal the deal for me. Passing on this. Thanks!

    Posted 3.24.20 Reply

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