I picked this one up because I really enjoyed—maybe even loved—Station Eleven. I’m also a sucker for mysterious places. The magic of a doors and walls and barriers between people. Sell me something like that and I am inclined to eat it right up.
There’s magic in The Glass Hotel, but it doesn’t have much to do with place, it seems. Which would probably have been a fine adjustment on my part if not for all the other disjointed means of storytelling in this book.
For the most part, The Glass Hotel is a novel I like to sit with. Emily St. John Mandel is a wonderful writer, so even when the “plot” of it all feels empty, her prose keeps me reading. Even as we jump from character to character, when I’m not entirely sure who these people are, her sentences bring me joy.
The problem with my reading experience, is as much of a sucker as I am for mysterious places, I am allergic to non-linear, multiple-perspective storytelling. It removes me from the narrative. It makes me inclined to care less. It has no momentum.
Maybe that’s a better way to describe this book. It has no momentum.
Not that every story needs momentum, but this one could’ve used a good deal of it. A Ponzi scheme set in New York City can only do so much to hold the attention of a reader like me, and I was left desperately wishing we’d return to the inventive Hotel Caiette. There, with the graffiti on the window, and the siblings who didn’t seem to share a lot of love, and the manager who didn’t seem to care for his employees—there the story felt much more … possible.
Or, if not possible, maybe open-ended?
At least, we do return to both the hotel and the graffiti, and Mandel throws a reader like me a bone when she starts to slip in a few ghosts and ideas of a “counter life.” The Glass Hotel is pieced together by a lot of fun interesting ideas, most of which I don’t believe belong in the same book.
Had this been twice as long, there’s a good chance I would have finished it, so make of that what you will.