If you are like me and would rather watch a video review than read one, skip to the bottom. I got you covered.😉
What It's About
Honestly, it's hard to say what this book is about without giving away exactly what the book is about and yet, now that I look at the synopsis, it does say exactly what the book is about right out there for everyone to see so I’m not going to feel too bad about it. Basically, there are two half siblings - Paul and Vincent. They have a bit of a hard start to life for different reasons and eventually end up briefly living and working at a very remote hotel on Vancouver Island. While working they witness a "disturbing graffiti incident" which Paul is suspected of committing and he is fired. Vincent meets the man the graffiti was intended for, Johnathan Alkaitis, and enters a relationship with him and goes to live with him and act as his wife until he is arrested for being the head of a ponzi scheme. Johnathan goes to prison while Vincent goes to work as a cook on a ship from which she disappears without a trace.
What I Thought
I wouldn't really say that there are any real plot spoilers in this review but, I do think that it's better to read this book without expectations and this review is full of what expectations were and were not met so read at your own risk. What I will say is, don't read this book expecting Station Eleven.
I recently read a book where the tag line was "You'll be scared, but you wont know why", well this book's tagline should be "You'll like it, but you wont know why." After reading Station Eleven which was so good, I was expecting something similar especially because in The Glass Hotel we actually have some character crossover from Station Eleven and also mention of the pandemic that occurred in that book. There was nothing wrong with this book necessarily, I enjoyed reading it. I read it fast and I was never bored by it. I find Emily St. John Mandel's writing style to be very soothing and I expect that I would enjoy anything she puts out because of that. I honestly wouldn't normally be interested in a book about investment fraud and I can say that after reading about it, I'm still not, but she did it in such a way that I was okay with it.
Another "problem" I had was that I didn't find the characters to be developed or interesting enough. Even the characters who showed up from Station Eleven -Miranda especially, were boring in their non-pandemic world. Vincent was the most interesting and I really wish that we had spent more time with her before her disappearance which in itself wasn't even interesting (was that a spoiler? Sorry). A lot of the characters had a very small part in the actual story and I think that if they were deleted from the book, I probably wouldn't even really notice (Paul?).
Throughout the book, seemingly important incidents occur such as “the disturbing graffiti Incident” and the reactions that characters had to these events were so over the top that I kept expecting something really big to come out of them, but nothing really did. The thing happened or something was said, everyone lost their mind, crying and carrying on and then that was it.
Also, the book is titled "The Glass Hotel" but very little of the book is actually set in the hotel and realistically the story doesn't have a lot to do with the hotel at all. I was expecting it to be more of a character in the story and unfortunately it wasn't so now I find myself trying to derive my own deeper meaning from the title...something like-your secrets will always be uncovered because you live in a glass hotel...but that seems like a bit of a reach. I would have loved a book centered more around this hotel that is so beautiful and so remote that it is only accessible by boat. That is SO COOL. Less ponzi scheme, more hotel. I'm thinking "The Gothic Glass Hotel". Yes? No?
I think that maybe my interest was held continually throughout the book because it always seemed like there was going to be this big reveal and that gave the story an element of mystery and excitement, but there NEVER was a big reveal! Normally this would make me pretty mad, but it didn't. I didn't feel cheated in any way, it just is what it is.
As I'm writing this, I realize that it sounds like I didn't like the book, but I did! I just have no idea why. What did you think?
Other Books By Emily St. John Mandel
Shanna of Vellum and Vellichor makes really great videos and we read a lot of the same stuff, so check her out!