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The Glass Room

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  8,448 Ratings  ·  1,045 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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Rating details
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Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 (view spoiler)


Ha. I have just seen the
Richard Burger
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
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
Lyn Elliott
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, europe
Mawer was inspired by the original of The Glass House, in a deliberately unnamed Czech town, here called Mĕsto.

The house is virtually a character in its own right as well as the central place around which the story units revolve. A masterpiece of minimalist architecture, it represents freedom, transparency and light, especially the great open Glass Room, walled on two sides by plate glass, white except for a wall of pale onyx which glows in the late afternoon light.

But the relationships of thos
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nancy Oakes
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Cynthia Haggard
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ron Charles
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-fiction
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
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2
ויקטור וליזל לנדאואר מתחתנים בשנת 1929. הוא יהודי, היא גרמניה, שניהם מבוססים כלכלית (עשירים זה המינוח המתאים יותר במקרה הזה) והם פוגשים את האדריכל ריינר פון אבט שבונה להם בצ'כיה את בית חלומותיהם: בית מודרני בעיצוב מנימליסטי שבמרכזו הסלון, חדר זכוכית.

הימים ימי טרום סערת מלחמת העולם השניה. צ'כסלובקיה דמוקרטיה צעירה יחסית, המבטיחה קוסמופוליטיות ומודרניות, העסקים המשגשגים של ויקטור, החיים הטובים של החברה הגבוהה, זוג מאוהב, מה עוד אפשר לבקש?

אבל האושר הזה קצר ימים וחשרת העננים הופכת לסערה שתוליד תהפו
Bonnie Brody
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-bk-grp, 2010
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
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
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
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, ww2, memorable
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
The Glass Room is a place. It has floor to ceiling windows that overlook a park and the city. It has an onyx wall and a flat roof. Built around 1930, the house with the glass room still exists in a small city in the Czech Republic and is now a museum. The house was designed by a German architect (who emigrated to the US during the war and stayed for an extended period) for a newlywed couple, one of whom was Jewish. The couple flees when the Germans enter Czechoslovakia. This much all seems true. ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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Simon Mawer (born 1948, England) is a British author. He currently lives in Italy.

More about Simon Mawer

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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.” 6 likes
“in Czech we have an expression, propadnout lásce, to fall in love. You can’t do that in German, can you? In German you just come into love. But in Czech you can fall into it.” 0 likes
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