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The Glass Room

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  5,632 ratings  ·  810 reviews
High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House has been built for newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a Jew married to a gentile. But, when the storm clouds of WW2 gather, the family must flee, accompanied by Viktor's lover and her child. But the house's story is far from over, as it passes from hand to hand, from Czech to Russian.
Paperback, 405 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2009)
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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareAn Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
Best Books of 2009
200th out of 1,372 books — 6,736 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAtonement by Ian McEwanThe Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark HaddonCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Non-Winners of the Man Booker
30th out of 191 books — 144 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kinga
This book was bootleg. I was rather disappointed. This was nominated? To what? Booker Prize?
Everything in it was just old recycled ideas. And the Glass Room metaphor got very old very quickly. I wanted to scream: Yes, we get it! Enough!

Don't you just love when the author assumes you're mentally handicapped?

But I threw one more star because the character of Hana. She made that Nazi guy go down on her and then PAY her for it. My girl.

UPDATE:

Ha. I have just seen the author of this book tweet: "Why
...more
Richard Burger
I'm not sure why some reviewers found The Glass Room ponderous or cliched. I was mesmerized by this beautifully told story revolving around the Glassraume, a Bauhaus-style home set on top of a hill, the main feature of which is a large room with walls of glass that overlooks the city. It also features an onyx wall that changes colors as the sun sets. These things sound simple and straightforward, but the author makes them appear magical, and places us right there in the room; we can touch the gl ...more
K
Jan 01, 2011 K rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K by: TABBIEs book club
"But human beings are not straightforward, Herr Stahl," says a character in this book. "They are very complex." (p. 244)

Really? Could've fooled me. Because the characters in this book are pretty far from complex, so this was a rather ironic moment in my reading.

Ah, the holocaust. Where would mediocre writers be without it? In an effort to put an original twist on this rather hackneyed backdrop, Simon Mawer writes a novel where the main character is a house. We learn about the house's original oc
...more
Stevedutch
It’s been a long time since I read a book that has stayed with me for so long afterwards and, I have to say, I miss reading it. The protagonist is not, of course, human; it’s the eponymous room. The author has based his story on a real house, the Villa Tugendhat, which is situated in Brno in the Czech Republic and designed by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the Tugendhat family who were Jewish and, as such, forced to leave for Switzerland following the German occupation in 1938 ...more
Wanda
This book is definitely a must for anyone who loves to read. It is an extraordinary and beautifully written book that is loosely based on the history of the Villa Tugendhat in the Czech Republic, and now a UNESCO Heritage site. The Villa serves as the main character in the novel as well as serving as the architecture of the book. All of the well drawn characters interact with and within the house and all of the plot revelations take place within its walls.
Abandoned by its owners, who fled to Sw
...more
Boyd
I've given this book three stars, but really it's a combination of two and four. Two for Mawer's writing, which is frequently heavy-handed, riddled with cliched foreboding (gathering storm clouds on the horizon--give me a break!) and sledgehammer symbolism. At times it seems the author is trying to re-write THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING: there's so much sexual huffing, puffing, and general melodrama taking place that it becomes comic. And coincidences? Full of 'em.

However, four stars for the
...more
Michelle
A different take on WWII Nazi occupation than I’ve read before. The main character is basically a house; a massive, uber-modern, glass and chrome house in Czechoslovakia. A young, wealthy honeymooning couple has it built shortly after their wedding but once Nazis invade they must emigrate and abandon their home. It’s later taken over by various factions and people.

It took me a long time to get into the book because most of the characters are quite like the house: cold and flat. Also, it’s odd to
...more
·Karen·
I liked the idea of using a house as the main character, and it is lovingly portrayed. But Mawer lays the symbolism on with a trowel, there is a somewhat desperate use of coincidence to get people back together that, to me, was meretricious sentimentality, and to use Faulkner's inimitable words, he writes not about the hearts of his characters, but about their glands. Every single adult in ths book is defined in terms of who they sleep with. Not in their social, political, family or vocational r ...more
Duncan
Reader! Do you want a badly written romance novel with GCSE level attempts at symbolism and ‘depth’? Look no further. Not that this is how The Glass Room is described. If it was I wouldn’t have gone near it. This, after all, is a book shortlisted for The Booker Prize.

“Life is like that”, he said, his gaze caught by the glow of the light reflecting against the Onyx wall as evening fell. “Modern is the future”. And then they had sex on the linoleum.

Or something like that.

What we have is a book wh
...more
Caroline
Every once in a while, if you're lucky, you come across beautiful writing about the frailty and strength of human relationships. This is one of those lucky moments for me.

The house of glass that was designed and built for a rich Czech couple was the epitome of modern art. They fill it with beautiful art, music and friends. But the glass house allows us to see what they try to hide, an unhappy marriage, loneliness , insecurities, and still, love. As the world starts to crumble into chaos with Hi
...more
Hannah
This book wowed me. There are numerous books about the plight of Jews in Nazi dominated Europe, but this novel takes a new angle.

The Landauer House was built in Czechoslovakia in the early 1900s by a revolutionary architect, and it is this house which the novel is constructed around. Each character that lives or visits is connected to the house and their stories are played out inside its walls. As well as characters, the history and events leading up to and post holocaust are contained within.
...more
Cynthia Haggard
THE GLASS ROOM by Simon Mawrer is the story of a fabulous house built in Czechoslovakia in the late 1920s for a young couple. When the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, the couple fled to Switzerland with their young family, because the husband was Jewish. Subsequently, they relocated to the United States.



But the book is not about the couple who commissioned the house. Rather, it is about the house itself. So after the main characters disappear in the middle of France in around 1942, we are yanke
...more
James
Mar 02, 2012 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: Max
One of the first things I noticed about this book was that the writing style reminded me of other books I had read that were translated from a language other than English, but this book was written in English, not translated. That Simon Mawer's style mimicked a novel in translation, yet was really tremendously well controlled is just one of the aspects that make this book stand out from other historical novels. For The Glass Room is an historical novel and both the sometimes subtle presence and ...more
Philip
In his novel, The Glass Room, Simon Mawer starts with a picture of privilege. Through that he explores human relationships, families, history, sexuality and change, to list just a few of the elements and themes that feature. Not only does he blend these and other penetrating ideas, he also consistently and utterly engages the reader, draws the observer in so effectively that sometimes the experience is participatory. The Glass Room is a novel that succeeds on so many levels that it becomes hard ...more
Nancy Oakes
The home commissioned by automobile maker Victor Landauer and his wife Liesel in 1929 has as a focal point The Glass Room. It is a house built by Modernist architect Rainer Von Abt, who follows Victor's insistence that the house reflect something new rather than continue the tradition of the old, ornamental style that was prevalent among the European wealthy of the time. It sits above a town on a hill in Czechoslovakia, with spectacular views, and it offered "the most remarkable experience of mo ...more
Pam
I had problems with this book from the beginning. I picked it up for my book club and I misunderstood the person who reccomended it. I thought it was the TRUE story of the house in the Czech Republic. I was even sent a link to pictures of the house in an email. And thus, I began reading.

I didn't think anything too suspicious until the architect was introduced and I was like, that's not Mies van Der Rohe...I checked the website again and none of the names matched. WTF?! Then I went back to the bo
...more
Gayle
A novel in the purest sense, I dove into this book, really my kind of fiction. Mawer takes an actual house, an architectural and historial landmark in the former Chekoslovakia, and imagines an entire historical period and characters who inhabit it. The House itself is almost a character. I moved into that Glass House, too, and suffered its travails through the dreaded tumult of the 1930s. At first I was reluctant to live in Nazi Europe for this read, but Mawer didn't take me down the usual, pred ...more
Ron Charles
During the pause between world wars, a Jewish businessman and his new wife commissioned a startlingly modern house for themselves in Czechoslovakia. They hired the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and gave him free rein to design an avant-garde structure that looks like a Mondrian painting in three dimensions: a long, low building of dramatic straight lines, marked by a large room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Unbelievably, this elegant house survived the dismemberment of the First ...more
Phillip Edwards
Inspired by architect Mies Van der Rohe's Tugendhat House in Brno, The Glass Room of the title is the centrepiece of a home designed by a modernist architect for Viktor Landauer, a rich Jewish businessman, and his wife Liesel at the start of their married life. But this is Czechoslovakia in the 1930's and the inexorable march of the Nazis looms like a storm cloud in the distance, spoiling their glorious view. The relationships between Victor, Liesel, her friend Hana, and Kata, the prostitute Vik ...more
Kiwiflora
Fifteen years ago the author visited the Tugendhat house in Czechoslovakia which is the house upon which this novel is based on. Designed by Ludwig Miles van der Rohe it is considered an icon of modern architecture. So highly regarded is it that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the information available the house in this book would appear to be a replica of the real house and is the one centre piece constant throughout the novel in a world of chaos and disintegration.

Despite the historical
...more
Bonnie Brody
It took me a while to warm up to The Glass Room but when I finished it I had goose bumps all over. I was overwhelmed.

The Glass Room by Siman Mawer is about a glass room in a house and the people who inhabit it over the years. It is about the Landauer family and the architect they hire to build the house, Ranier von Apt, who is loosely based on Mies van der Rohe. This house is to be different from any other – one built from the inside out and with “a living space that changes functions as the inh
...more
Jane
Another fictional account of the suffering caused by WWII with the setting a real house designed by Mies Van der Rohe in the Czech Republic. I love domestic architecture so googled the place to get the full effect of its design. Windows!!! Wonderful windows. (some pretty bad youtube videos bobbing and weaving, but I got the impact easily after watching a few.) The fictional family, the husband a wealthy Jewish car manufacturer and his wife an innocent young woman, love the light and open space, ...more
Ti
The Short of It:

The Glass Room is a sophisticated, highly stylized work of art.

The Rest of It:

In central Europe during the 1920′s, newlyweds, Viktor and Liesel Landauer meet acclaimed architect, Rainer von Abt. A modernist of his time, he agrees to build the them a house like no other. One designed with sharp angles, wide, open spaces and a room made of glass. Viktor, quite the modernist himself, is taken with the idea. A room made of glass? How exquisite. Liesel on the other hand, must be convi
...more
Nancy
This book was a compelling read for me for several reasons:

. . . IF we need any reminder of the painful history of Eastern Europe, this book very capably does that;
. . . it also paints a sensitive, three-dimensional portrait of a piece of modern domestic architecture that illustrates how central a home can be to a culture and entire way of life;
. . . and The Glass Room also tells a moving story about the priveleged people who lived or socialized in the Modernist masterpiece but were not immune t
...more
Trish
Europe between the wars is heady in its mix of optimism and foreboding, and both impel the reader’s involvement in this story of the unlikely meeting between a Czech Jewish capitalist and his wife in Venice to a brash and forward-looking minimalist Austrian architect. The result is the Landauer House of the story with its famed der Glasraum. The author adds a note that ”raum” in German means much more than “room”: it also encompasses “space,” “volume,” and “zone” in its expansive meanings. And t ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
In the 1920's, wealthy, Jewish Czech businessman Viktor Landauer and his bride, Liesel, hire German avantgarde architect, Rainer von Abt, to design an ultra-modern home for them. An unconventional "upside down" blueprint creates space from a house, rather than creating a house from space. Von Abt considers himself a poet of form, space, and light. These revolutionary ideas usurp the notion of ornamentation. Gables, pillars, columns, turrets, and whatnot are oppressively rooted in the past, and i ...more
Cara
This book was the reading group choice for July. I had taken it on holiday, and felt I had a duty to read for the group rather than a desire to, from reading the blurb.

How true is it never to judge a book by it's cover?

I loved this book. It was centred around a very modern house built in the 1920's in Czechoslovakia. How the house was commissioned, the part it played in the lives of the owners, and how they subsequently had to abandon it due to the onset of German occupation of Czechoslovakia an
...more
Sophia
A moving and impressive historical novel set in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s.

Ian Sansom, writing in the Guardian says, '... [it's] a book about a culture slipping from decadence into catastrophic decline. It's a study of a marriage. It concerns itself with art, music, architecture, indignity, loneliness, terror, betrayal, sex. And the Holocaust. It should, therefore, be pretentious, unbearable schlock of the most appalling kind. But it's not. It is, unexpectedly, a thing of extraordinary be
...more
Felice
While Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was winning the 2009 Booker, Simon Mawer was one of the nominees losing for The Glass Room. He may have won if nominated a different year. Indeed who could have competed successfully against all that Mantel exquisiteness? I'd like to say no one but having just finished The Glass Room I have to say that the Booker judges had to make a close call.

The Glass Room starts out in Czechoslovakia in the 1920's. Wealthy newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer have built a mo
...more
DubaiReader
An excellent read.

An excellent book based on the events of WWII but from the point of view of characters in Czechoslovakia.

Using the house as the central character, Mawer brilliantly interweaves the support characters of Liesel and her husband Viktor, owner of Landauer cars in Czechoslovakia. Vicktor is Jewish and as WWII looms and the Nazis gain in strength, he and Lisel are forced to leave with their two children and flee west. Liesel's vivacious friend Hana remains in Czechoslovakia, also wit
...more
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Simon Mawer (born 1948, England) is a British author. He currently lives in Italy.

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“She knows what it is to be sad and miserable, but those emotions are almost enjoyable. They throw moments of happiness and laughter into sharper relief.” 5 likes
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