The Glass Hotel (2020) By Emily St. John Mandel

Reviewed by: 
Mary Anne

The Glass Hotel is on a small island in British Columbia, accessible only by boat from the nearby village of Grace Harbor. It is a very fancy place, a luxury destination on an island with only one main street with two dead ends, 8 or 10 houses, and a forest.  When asked why people would pay a great deal of money to stay there, the manager will say that people like the quiet and the feeling of wilderness. They don’t really want to be in the wilderness, just near it.


It is the people associated with the hotel that are the focus of the story. There is Jonathan Alkaitis, creator of a large Ponzi scheme, and all the people he brings down with him when he falls. There is Vincent, a local girl and bartender at the hotel, who spends a few years with Jonathan “in the country of money” before the debacle, who is able to go right back to her independent self afterward, and find happiness in a new, sort of normal, life. There is Paul, her half-brother, with his assortment of problems, his creativity, his rehabs stints, his unhappiness surrounding him like an aura. And there are all the characters that fill this story, many of them extremely wealthy, who believed Jonathan, who pretended to themselves he was just a very clever financial whiz, who were captivated by his engaging personality.


But the story really focuses on Vincent, whose mother disappears when she is a young girl, a loss she carries with her for a lifetime. Vincent is young through most of the story, while bartending, while living with Jonathan, while traveling around the world in her life after the downfall.


The characters the author creates are rich and full, multi-faceted and interesting. Her writing is superb, as readers of her last novel, Station Eleven, will know. St. John Mandel takes the reader from British Columbia, to the world of the wealthy in New York City, to a massive container ship off the coast of Mauritania, with occasional stops at the Glass Hotel. Throw in a ghost from time to time, and The Glass Hotel is truly, one of the best novels of 2020.

The Glass Hotel is available on Ezone.

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