K's Reviews > The Glass Room

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
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's review
Jan 01, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: ebooks, historicalfiction, holocaust, maybe-it-s-me
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 occupants, a Jewish man, his Christian wife, and their children, who are forced to flee Czechslovakia when the Nazis come. After their departure, we follow their lives as refugees as well as the life of the house where multiple occupants come and go until it is eventually declared a historical landmark.

Look. I'm just not one of those people who's into home decorating. Unlike many people I know, I aspire to get through my entire life NOT doing construction or redecorating (which is a pretty realistic dream in my case). So pages and pages of loving description of a house, however artfully written, just leave me cold. Especially when each new occupant gives the author a new opportunity to rehash these details. Okay. The wall was onyx. It was shiny and reflective. I got it. I know that other readers appreciated the idea of giving the house a personality, but this really didn't do it for me. Houses don't talk, and they don't feel, and they don't have relationships, no matter how much Simon Mawer may want to imagine otherwise. So why would I want to read endlessly about a freakin' house?

My other main complaint about this book was that the characters seemed ruled by their gonads. Every relationship was sexual. As another goodreads reviewer put it, an architect couldn't just be an architect; a best friend couldn't just be a best friend; feelings of disgust by the wife for the husband's mistress were oddly mingled with a tinge of...you guessed it, sexual attraction. The people weren't interesting, their relationships weren't interesting, but somehow everyone was attracted to everyone else.

Booker nominees and winners just keep getting more and more disappointing.
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Reading Progress

12/28/2010
13.0% "I dunno...the building of this house is just not doing it for me."
12/29/2010
26.0% "I am just not that into home decorating..."
12/29/2010
56.0% "I don't care about the stupid house. I also don't care about the cardboard characters. I don't know why I'm still reading. I'm really curious what those Booker people were thinking." 5 comments
06/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Kinga Let me know what you think. I read it for a book club as well, so read my review when you are done :)


message 2: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I stumbled on your review after I started reading and saw that you weren't too crazy about it. I'm trying to keep an open mind. We'll see how it goes...


Kinga I now think I was maybe a little bit too harsh. It could have been 3 stars.. maybe..


message 4: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Uh-oh. At least I didn't spend money on it (digital book from the library)...


message 5: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris I'm just glad to know I'm not the only woman in the world who doesn't care at all about redecorating.


message 6: by rivka (new)

rivka I care a little bit. But endless descriptions of houses and rooms and furniture leave me cold too. Just like I care somewhat about my clothes, but endless descriptions of ball gowns and tea gowns etc. make me want to throw things.


message 7: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I'm with you guys. I hate being subjected to endless conversations about it, and it's really not what I read a book for.


Kinga Ahaha.. So we agree in the end :) I am glad.


message 9: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Me too. Although in a way it would have been more interesting if we could have had a heated debate about the book! ;)


message 10: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Jalfon I think that review may be more amusing than the book (havn't read it)


message 11: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks! Although it's not much of a contest, as I don't think you'd find the book very amusing. ;)


message 12: by Skylar (last edited Jan 03, 2011 04:45PM) (new)

Skylar Burris rivka wrote: "I care a little bit. But endless descriptions.."

Okay, I guess I am still the only woman in the world. :)

I'm with you on the endless descriptions, however.


message 13: by rivka (new)

rivka A very little bit. I like buying curtains. And pillows. And new sheets. And bookshelves!

That's about it. ;)


message 14: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Skylar, I'm with you. Although I see Rivka's point on the bookshelves...


message 15: by Jessica S. (new)

Jessica S. I've been having bad luck with Booker books myself lately. Can someone recommend to me a Booker book actually worth reading? I've just struck out three (or four?) times in a row.


message 16: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Off the top of my head, I can think of more that I disliked than that I actually liked. And even the ones I did like, many people didn't like so I can't fully recommend them. For instance, I liked Waiting but my sister and many of my book club members hated it. I also liked True History of the Kelly Gang, which not everyone liked either. One that I would recommend with more enthusiasm is The Blind Assassin; I thought that was really good although it may take some effort to get into. That's about it for me.


message 17: by M (new)

M Wasn't A Fine Balance a booker? I mean I pretty much hated it but a lot of people went for it. I would second Blind Assassin. That is one fine book. Almost makes me rethink my Booker Ban. Almost.


message 18: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Okay -- just went to good old trusty Wikipedia and found the list of winners and shortlisted books. Some of the shortlisted books I liked include The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, A Fine Balance, The God of Small Things, When We Were Orphans, English Passengers, Life of Pi, Brick Lane, Notes on a Scandal, Never Let Me Go, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Again, I would recommend some of these more equivocally; they appealed to me but not to some of my friends whose tastes I respect, and I even had some mixed feelings about some of them. But it's true that once you include the shortlisted books as well as the winners, there are a few good picks. There were many more that I hated, though.


message 19: by rivka (new)

rivka Could also look here.


message 20: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Rivka -- that's a more helpful link, because it includes average goodreads ratings. It's telling that some of them are on the low side.


message 21: by rivka (new)

rivka Yup.


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