You may be more familiar with Emily St. John Mandel’s first novel, Station Eleven, a brilliant novel all about a virus that wipes out of 80% of the world’s population. I read that book several years ago, around 2014, and it has remained with me ever since. I’ve long awaited her second novel, this novel – The Glass Hotel – for years knowing full well that it was going to come later rather than sooner. And now the time has come, I’ve read it, now what did I think?
The style of the story is very similar to Station Eleven. Long winding chapters outlaying a person’s spot in life and the people the come into contact with, slowly revealing greater parts of their story and how they overlap with previous characters or soon to be explored characters.
The main character of this story is Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette for the purpose of this review. We start with Vincent as a troubled young girl whose mother has recently committed suicide and is acting out a school, her half brother Paul making an appearance in her life briefly. We follow her life and the people that she comes into contact with as slowly, ever so slowly, things start to unravel and reveal themselves.
Honestly it’s hard to explain this story other than saying, this is an IN DEPTH character exploration. This is not a plot driven story, you need to love characters and learning how seemingly meaningless, small, pointless characters play a greater role in the entire narrative. I find these kinds of books much harder to read in that it takes me a lot longer to get through, but I find that the reward of reading it is so much sweeter and the pay off, worth it. That is a personal decision though, and I don’t blame anyone for deciding that it’s not for them.
If I were to recommend one or the other, Glass Hotel or Station Eleven, I would recommend Station Eleven, but don’t take that to mean that I didn’t enjoy Glass Hotel. I did. I think Mandel makes a lot of commentary without being overbearing or browbeating and it just sneaks up in there, planting little seeds that finally take hold once you’re invested.