‘The Glass Hotel’ by Emily St. John Mandel – From Vancouver Island to New York City to a Ship on the Atlantic Ocean


‘The Glass Hotel’ by Emily St. John Mandel (2020) – 301 pages

Odd things happen to real people. The things that happen to young woman Vincent and her brother Paul in ‘The Glass Hotel’ are perhaps odder than most but entirely plausible in today’s world. They make a good story.

‘The Glass Hotel’ is a novel you can fully inhabit. The characters are engaging and well-rounded with both interesting virtues and faults. There are several instances of each of the main characters acting in dishonorable ways in order to advance their own interests, These characters are only human, not too good to be true.

The focus in ‘The Glass Hotel’ shifts from young man Paul nightclubing in Toronto to his half-sister Vincent working as a bartender in the Hotel Caiette on Vancouver Island to Vincent’s new man friend financier Jonathan Alkaitis in New York City to various individuals who worked for his investment firm to one of his investors Leon Prevant and his wife Marie. And so on.

I appreciated the sheer originality of the plot of ‘The Glass Hotel’.

Young woman Vincent is at the center of ‘The Glass Hotel’. For some young women, the choice is between going to college while accumulating a huge student loan debt with little promise of significant financial reward afterward or meeting and hooking up with a rich man whom she may not love but can easily tolerate. Vincent works as a bartender and chooses the second option.

…because that’s what money gives you, the freedom to stop thinking about money. If you’ve never been without, then you won’t understand the profundity of this, how absolutely this changes your life.”

There are physical presences, not ghosts, in ‘The Glass Hotel’, people the characters have known in the past who are no longer there but who have had such a profound impact on our lives that they show up on occasion.

During the course of ‘The Glass Hotel’, Emily St. John Mantel presents a couple of ideas for ghost stories. There was one I particularly liked. Women past the age of forty tend to disappear from view even though they are still there. Why not write a story about a woman who turns into a ghost after she turns forty, a ghost who can see every little incident that is going on, but no one can see her?

From an elegant glass hotel on Vancouver Island to the high life in New York City with a stop-off at a federal prison to a tanker ship called the Neptune Cumberland on the north Atlantic, one could say that ‘The Glass Hotel’ meanders from place to place and from person to person. However there was no time during my reading of the novel when I was not fully engaged with the people and their adventures in the novel.


Grade:   A




7 responses to this post.

  1. I still have this on my piles to read – can’t believe I didn’t dive straight in when it came out – I even bought a signed copy. Glad you loved it, I’ve seen a lot of good reviews.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. I really loved it – one of my best reads of last year. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. I like the sound of this: novels that deal with the impact of the modern economy on real people are intrinsically interesting.

    Liked by 1 person


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