Reviewer Lily Azerad-Goldman, B.F.A. Lily is an artist and a children's author. Follow Here to view Lily's art work. She is also the author and illustrator of the children's book Mrs.Nosy -A Composting Story For Children & Adults.
Author: Simon Mawer
Simon Mawer, the author, instills his characters with such realism that you believe these people really existed. And maybe they did!
Author: Simon Mawer
The Glass Room authored by Simon Mawer is an epic
historical saga. The action is centered in Mesto, presumably the
capital of Czchekoslovakia in a Glass Room, from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, thus
covering a pre-war extravagant and lavish lifestyle to Nazi and
Soviet invasions and back to Communism.
All the main actions, love and lust affairs are centered in the ethereal décor of the modern glass house, designed by a german architect: Rainer Von Apt. Simon Mawer, the author, instills his characters with such realism that you believe these people really existed. And maybe they did!
The tale unfolds with Liesl and Viktor Landauer’s marriage of the renowned Landauer car factories. Liesl is German and Viktor is a liberal Jew. Dialogues are imbued with sexual innuendos. Liesl has a very good friend Hana who has libertarian and lesbian tendencies despite being married and in love with a Jewish man, Oskar Hanak.
The first lusty lovemaking is witnessed by the cold,
sharp and indifferent shimmering panes in the glass room.
Viktor and Liesl are in love and have 2 children, Ottilie and Martin,
but Viktor falls in love with Kata Kalman during his business trips
in another close by town.
Despite the hot whispers of the winds of war, this society continues to live their lavish lifestyles, entertaining, giving private concerts in the glass room, trips abroad, etc.
By chance, Liesl and Viktor give a war benefit for refugees and Kata and her daughter Marika happen to be invited in the Glass Room. Viktor and Liesl rescue them and Kata becomes her children’s nanny. They manage to flee to Switzerland by the skin of their teeth, the first day their town is invaded by the Nazis.
The Glass Room now abandoned is requisitioned by the Nazis to conduct their experiments on the Aryan race and the Jewish degenerate race. Werner Stahl, a Nazi scientist has an affair with Hana in the Glass Room. In fact, he rapes her on her last visit to him, and sends her to a work camp for women in Germany.
Following the dismantling of the lab because they
could not prove the Aryan superiority, the Glass Room falls prey to
the Russian invasion. In a hilarious passage, a tough Soviet woman
soldier rapes the old caretaker of the house, Lanik, where else but
in the Glass Room.
Finally, in the 1990s, under the communist regime the story comes back full circle to the first protagonists.
The writing of the author is akin to a symphony of words gone awry, The first chapters are mellifluous and sweet with some false notes. It then becomes a Nazi cacophonia of percussion instruments gone awry and a strident cri du coeur when the Soviets and the communists return to Mesto and The Glass Room. The use of Czech and German language gives the reading a special old world flavor. We cry and we laugh with the protagonists who are trying to make sense of irrational times.
The Glass Room is an engrossing, well researched book. It will make you cry and it will make you laugh. Highly recommended. It surely deserves to have been one of the finalists for the 2009 Booker Prize. At press time, I don’t know if he won.
Simon Mawer was born in England and spent his childhood there, in Cyprus and in Malta. His previous novels include The Fall (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize), The Gospel of Judas, and Mendel’s Dwarf (long listed for the Man Booker Prize). He now lives in Italy with his wife and teaches at St. George’s British International School in Rome. .