Book reviews / Fiction

Book review: The Glass Hotel

Well, it was a book?

I think my brain is probably broken from a steady diet of science fiction, as I just wanted a plot to emerge at some point during this novel, but I was left wanting. I suppose some fiction is about people’s lives and feelings, and not saving the universe. Fine, I get it.

Anyway, I didn’t hate it, but at the same time, I don’t want to read something like it anytime soon.

The Glass Hotel is a novel that waves together the encounters of a group of people over a series of time. They are connected sometimes very loosely (chance encounters in a hotel bar) and sometimes very strongly (being partners). I mean, that’s what I think it is. I guess there are sort of ghosts in it too, but that is peripheral. In the centre of it is a young woman named Vincent, at least that is how it seemed to me.

There were some things I liked about it. Some of the characters are really wealthy, and in one chapter Vincent and another character talk about that being rich is like living in a different country. Where that really kind of hit home was in a later chapter, where one of the peripheral characters is living with the consequences main plot point of the whole book (which I won’t spoil). He and his wife are now living in the shadow world of itinerant workers and those who are just one bad break from destitution. It was just unbearably sad for some reason, which for some reason hit home more than the other stories.

It also reminded of me of Ivy Compton Burnett (one of the people in my PhD). One of the criticisms of her work was that the ‘good’ people didn’t win, and that providence didn’t exist. Also some of her more likeable characters were all the snarky sceptics and atheists. This reminded me a little of that, in that there is just no justice in any of the outcomes. They are just the consequences of good or bad decisions. Which is bleak, if true.

The things I didn’t quite like was basically all the characters. I just thought they were either dull or just a bit annoying. Maybe that’s the point. But oh my god it’s hard to want to read a book when you’re like “I don’t care what happens to any of these characters at all.” Which meant, that aside from that one chapter, the whole second half of the novel didn’t really move me at all. It was almost like a count down of “oh good, that story line is wrapped up.”

The other thing that annoyed me a bit were the time jumps. I know it made sense as it connected other characters, but sometimes the jumps were pretty big and I just felt a bit annoyed. The major one being that there’s a painter connected to one of the main characters. We have to jump back in time to the 1950s or 1960s, where mostly before then it was relatively recent. It was just a bit jarring and annoyed me. It made sense, because it connected two characters, but reading the chapter I was just thinking “what the fuck is going on, where is the plot, please give me a plot.”

Anyway, Obama liked it, so what do I know.

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