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Group Read - The Glass Hotel > Group Read - The Glass Hotel part One ch 1-5 Spoilers Welcome

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message 1: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Comment thread for the group read book The Glass Hotel: part one Chapters 1-5. Spoilers welcome on this topic.
If the first to post please briefly summarize to guide the discussion.


message 2: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 03, 2020 06:37PM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments The Glass Hotel Part 1 Chapters 1-5

Chapter 1 December 2018
Really more of a prologue than a chapter, a series of impressions:
- Plummeting off a ship in a storm, camera flying away
- Sweep me up. Words scrawled on a window when I was thirteen feeling exuberance in my chest like light glinting on crushed glass.
- A strange memory: Filming at Caiette when I was thirteen whispering “I want to go home, I want to go home” although Caiette is home.
- Not feeling the cold or anything any more, aware of a border but can’t tell which side I’m on.
- The first time I boarded the Neptune Cumberland the third mate spoke. Something struck me and I thought, “You. . .”
- I am out of time.
- I want to see my brother. I concentrate hard and abruptly I’m standing in the dark on a street in a foreign city. A man is slumped in a doorway. I haven’t seen my brother in a decade but I know it’s him. He looks up and sees me but the street blinks out.

Chapter 2 1994 and 1999
At the end of 1999 23 year old Paul was studying finance at university. When he was younger he assumed he’d major in musical composition but his mother, having sponsored several rounds of rehab for him, favors a practical degree. Paul is isolated; he’s older than the other students and socially uneasy so he hasn’t made friends. He’s also headed toward academic probation. (Throughout this section there are offset chunks of a conversation Paul has with a counselor in Utah in the indeterminate future, referring to the action in 1999.) Paul goes to a club to see a band he's heard of. Trying obliquely to pick up one of the band, Annika, he asks the group to recommend a place to dance. They recommend System Soundbar. He goes there hoping to see Annika and ends up buying drugs to which he has a bad reaction. Another evening he returns to the club and the band is there. He gives them the remaining pills, still in his pocket. Feeling rejected, he leaves. Annika takes one pill and gives two to her bandmate, Charlie, “whose heart stopped a half hour later on the dance floor.”

Paul flees to Vancouver to see his half-sister, Vincent. He remembers in high school Vincent acid-painting a school window with the words “sweep me up.” Paul came around the corner just as she did it. Her friend Melissa was also there. They lived in Caiette at the remote north end of Vancouver Island. A mail boat takes them the last leg home with Paul studiously avoiding looking at the water. There’s a new, massive, hotel being built nearby. Paul has come from Toronto, ostensibly to look out for Vincent because her mother has disappeared. In reality, in trouble in Toronto, he came here to start over. At home they find Melissa has told her parents about the graffiti and the school called their father. Vincent is suspended for a week. Dad is thinking about sending Vincent to live with Aunt Shauna. Dad catches Paul smoking marijuana and he’s sent back to Toronto.

In 1999 Paul finds Vincent and Melissa living together in a shabby part of town. In this section he repeatedly thinks he sees Charlie just out of his range of vision. The three go to a club and dance and drink. The girls ask why Paul has come and he explains he might be blamed for giving bad E to Charlie. Paul has to keep reminding himself that he doesn’t hate Vincent. He only hates that, though she’s had misfortune, she always turns out fine. At another club, in the last minutes of 1999, Paul sees Charlie watching him. “No,” he tells future-counselor, “that was only the first time I saw him.”

Chapter 3 Spring 2005
At the Hotel Caiette someone has acid-painted on a window “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” It’s 2:30 a.m. and the one guest in the lobby, shipping executive, Leon Prevant, is very disturbed by the words. The graffiti is on the outside of the glass but written backward to be readable in the lobby.

Walter, the night manager, remembers being interviewed by Raphael, the general manager, in Toronto. Raphael told him the appeal of the hotel is an escape from the modern world. Remote, accessible only by boat, no cell reception. The hotel’s boat pilot is Melissa and Vincent is the bartender. Paul has recently started working there also. Walter is suspicious of Paul for the graffiti. Paul thinks Prevant is another guest, Mr. Alkaitis but he’s never before had interest in the guests. Just after Prevant goes to his room, Alkaitis arrives and orders breakfast at the bar. He’s the hotel owner.

In his room, Prevant can’t sleep. He’s overextended and afraid he’s going to lose his job. The next evening Prevant meets Alkaitis in what seems like a coincidence but “seemed later like a trap.” They meet at the bar where Alkaitis is talking with Vincent. Alkaitis works in finance. Walter later overhears him and Prevant talking about investment strategies. Walter is convinced Paul did the graffiti and confronts him. Paul acts decidedly guilty. Paul says he has a lot of debt which Walter takes as a plea to keep his job, but later wonders if Paul meant someone paid him to do the graffiti. The message seemed aimed at Alkaitis, but what could Paul have to do with him? Prevant is obsessing on “swallow broken glass” again remembering his friend, Rob, forever sixteen, and Rob’s mother at the funeral.

Vincent leaves the hotel on the day Alkaitis departs. Life at the hotel goes on for a year. Ella Kaspersky checks in, notable because Alkaitis has always avoided her. Walter realizes Alkaitis hasn’t been there in a while and googles him. He finds a picture of him with his wife, Vincent. Walter reflects on Vincent’s new wealthy life. He loves Caiette and realizes he wants nothing he doesn’t already have. But he’s blindsided by the memory of the graffiti’s horrible message and sees the forest as a “mass of undifferentiated shadow."

Chapter 4 2005-2008
At Alkaitis’s home in Connecticut, Vincent has established a daily routine of jogging, visiting Manhattan, returning home in time to be there for her husband, and swimming every evening. Vincent fears drowning and swims to strengthen her will, challenging herself to underwater endurance tests. It’s an adjustment to live in the “kingdom of money.” Alkaitis has a daughter, Claire, who’s five years older than Vincent and not friendly. The couple are not actually married although they wear rings and actively lie to others about it. Vincent recognizes she pays a price for this life but thinks the price is reasonable.

When Vincent’s mother disappeared, her grandmother gave her a video camera saying a it can be a shield between her and the world when it’s too much to bear. Since then Vincent has recorded five minute videos wherever she is. Alkaitis tells her about Ella Kaspersky whom he’d met in 1999 at Hotel Caiette. He tells Vincent about her in case she ever shows up. Kaspersky talked about her making investments with Alkaitis but she decided it was a fraud scheme and reported him to the SEC, who found nothing.

Vincent meets Lenny Xavier, a music producer, whom her husband calls his most important investor. Lenny tells her about a singer he worked with years ago, Annika, who didn’t “recognize opportunity.” She quit him and went to Canada to tour in a band. Xavier says he seized opportunity when he met Alkaitis and “figured out how his fund worked.” Alkaitis overhears him and dampens the conversation. Vincent realizes there’s something he doesn’t want Xavier to reveal.

Alkaitis belongs to a lot of clubs because "he likes to be in places where time slows down." Vincent later thinks that should have been a clue—why did he want time to slow down? Was there some inevitability rushing toward him? At one of Alkaitis’ clubs Vincent meets Mirella, the wife of a Saudi prince who invests with Jonathan. They become friends and Vincent is comfortable confiding in Mirella who’s also not native to the "land of money. Vincent tells Mirella about meeting Alkaitis. Her father had just died, she was working in the hotel, dissatisfied, wanting out, and he came in and sat at the bar. They talked and he gave her a card with his number. She recognized opportunity. Later, in Manhattan with Mirella, Vincent admires a yellow Lamborghini parked on the street. They talk about how boring shopping has become. Vincent realizes what money gives you is the freedom to stop thinking about money.

Chapter 5
Olivia stands on the street where Vincent sees the Lamborghini. Behind the car is a doorway she passed through in the 1950’s when Jonathan Alkaitis’ brother was looking for models. Painter Lucas Alkaitis was working on a portrait series. Olivia offers him a deal: she’ll pose for him if he’ll pose for her. Lucas says he doesn’t pose and, leaving him her number, Olivia exits. In 2008 Olivia watches Vincent and Mirella pass. She observes Vincent look at the Lamborghini and murmurs, “I see it too.”

Lucas arrives at Olivia’s to sit for a portrait. Olivia thinks of him as ridiculous in some ways, a poser, but a serious person. She looks for a starting point for a serious portrait and sees indications of drug use. She asks him to turn his left arm. He won’t but she sees his bruised veins and adds them to the portrait. At the gallery opening he tells her he could kill her and says she’s not even accurate, but in ten months he’s dead from an overdose. She went to a show of his near his end and complimented his work. With Lucas is his brother, Jonathan Alkaitis, 13 years old, who asks if she doesn’t like his brother’s paintings. Olivia says she doesn’t particularly like them. Olivia’s career takes a downturn for 40 years until a retrospective exhibition. Lucas’ portrait sells at auction for two hundred thousand dollars. Her sister refers her to the man with whom she’s invested, Jonathan Alkaitis, who remembers meeting her at the gallery. Over the years they sometimes lunch together. Olivia tells Alkaitis she posed for Lucas but doesn’t know what became of the painting. Jonathan tells her he bought her painting of Lucas from the auction buyer.

“Three months before Jonathan Alkaitis was arrested, he invited her along on a trip on his yacht.” She met Vincent and compliments her to Alkaitis. He says “I think she’d be good at anything she set out to do. . .She’s got a very particular gift. . .She sees what a given situation requires and she adapts herself accordingly.”


message 3: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 04, 2020 10:25AM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments So much going on in this book and much of it revealed only in hints. I don’t know where it’s going except the broad strokes. The quick shifts of time and POV makes for confusing summaries. I apologize. Someone’s always going off in a reverie about the past in what starts as someone else’s scene.

For the record, I think something is up with Suzanne, Jonathan Alkaitis’ first wife, but she didn’t make the summary because nothing said about her held any interest. Alkaitis doesn’t like to talk about her. That’s the sum of what we know. Very suspicious to me.

Lots of interesting references to shattered glass, the first being Vincent’s “exuberance like light shining off broken glass” in the first chapter. Maybe because of that, the “sweep me up” graffiti first made me think of sweeping up broken glass more than being swept off one’s feet or swept away by something.

Then, of course, the hotel graffiti. I wonder what’s up with Prevant’s reaction to that? Was it intended for him? Is it possible that Alkaitis has such far-reaching information and power that he can arrange for highly disturbing pranks just before he makes a play for someone to invest in his obviously suspicious scheme?

Because the whole thing seems like there’s some vast underlying conspiracy what with Alkaitis’ main client having a connection to Annika with whom Paul has an unsavory connection in addition to his apparent (if tenuous) connection to Alkaitis in the graffiti incident.

What happened to Vincent’s mother? Is she dead? If so, someone killed her. Was it Vincent? Why didn’t Paul want to look at the water? He couldn’t have killed her; he was in Toronto. Could it be Alkaitis? He’s being positioned as the all-round bad guy. I don’t remember if it said how he first knew about Caiette. Could he have known Vincent’s mom in the past in the dark forest?

It seems Vincent is going to video something she shouldn’t and get thrown off a ship for it. What can it be? Good thing she’s been doing all that swimming and holding her breath practice.

Do rich people really travel with their servants? I thought it very odd when Anya showed up in France but maybe I’m just an ignorant proletarian. In fact I found the whole quick trip to France odd, with an extra woman who kind of disappears from the plot without having served any purpose.

There’s an odd description of a party with Alkaitis’ employees. One group, asset management, keeps to themselves. Five people, I think, in a party of more than 100. Alkaitis explains to Vincent that they work on a different floor. I have no idea what asset managers do, but Mandel makes a point of it, so I assume they’ll show up again later.

What’s up with the Lamborghini? Is it Alkaitis’? If so, what’s he doing in his brother’s apartment 40 years later? And why is Olivia there? It didn’t occur to me until I was doing summaries that in 2008 Olivia knows Vincent and evidently the Lamborghini has some significance for both of them.

I find very amusing Vincent’s and Mirella’s way of talking about being wealthy. “Land of money.” I’ve never been across the border into that great country but from over here it does seem like a whole world. Their way of looking at it is funny and feels right. It is a different place with it’s own culture and mores.

I think Lucas’ painting of Olivia is going to show up somewhere.

Is there anything in both Vincent and Alkaitis having lost a family member when each was thirteen? Too many questions and avenues to explore! Where is all of this going?

In closing I have to say that Vincent’s name drives me crazy. First, if you’re going to name your kid after Edna St. Vincent Millay, I get not going with Edna, but Millay would be a better choice than Vincent. After reading a third of the book and writing summaries, even as I’m writing this post I keep being brought up short by “wait a minute. Now who’s Vincent?” I can only see it as a male’s name.


message 4: by Barbara K (new)

Barbara K | 414 comments Having worked in the administrative ends of the securities industry since 1977 I can testify that asset managers (1) definitely think they are above others, and (2) definitely make a boatload of money. And the owners of these companies make even more obscene amounts of money, enough to fly to their overseas homes with staff in tow.

It seems that Alkaitis is running a Bernie Madoff style Ponzi scheme. Initial successful investments stop paying out, so you start giving returns to old investors using the funds brought in from new investors. The parallels to Madoff are pronounced, even to the asset managers being on a different floor from the operations staff. And the large client base in Miami.

The tip-off to the SEC also follows the Madoff pattern. They received a complaint regarding unrealistic returns regardless of market conditions, but when they followed up they didn’t dig deeply because they couldn’t believe a respectable firm like his could be based on a scam.

The record producer clearly knows something is wrong - my guess is that in exchange for keeping his mouth shut and sending new clients Alkaidis’s way he’s seeing some great returns. And all those people reflecting on how they should have seen what was really going on.

Enough pontificating.


message 5: by Barbara K (last edited Jun 04, 2020 03:39PM) (new)

Barbara K | 414 comments After getting past the rather annoying Paul section at the beginning, I’ve really been enjoying this book! For me it’s been flowing smoothly, with just enough continuity between sections to keep the sense that we’re moving forward, but enough gaps in info to keep the sense of mystery.

I completely agree that the “Vincent” name is confusing, especially when the narrative involves a Jonathan as well. I have to keep reminding myself which is the husband!

I also look forward to getting the real scoop on what happened to Vincent’s mother. And what’s going on with Olivia - unless she is just really elaborately developed victim of Alkaitis’s scheming?

And what prompted Paul to put the graffiti on the window? He seemed to be targeting it at Alkaitis since Paul was concerned about when he would arrive. As you noted, Jan, is there a connection to Annika?

A lot to keep me going!


message 6: by Barbara K (last edited Jun 04, 2020 03:39PM) (new)

Barbara K | 414 comments Oops! I meant to start by complimenting you, Jan, on the summaries! Another book that is hard to distill on a chapter by chapter basis.


message 7: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 06, 2020 06:31PM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "Having worked in the administrative ends of the securities industry since 1977 I can testify that asset managers (1) definitely think they are above others, and (2) definitely make a boatload of money. And the owners of these companies make even more obscene amounts of money, enough to fly to their overseas homes with staff in tow. ”

Thanks, Barbara. Your entire post is extremely helpful. I had guessed it must be a Ponzi scheme having gleaned a vague understanding from the Madoff scandal. Alkaitis seemed to be recruiting investors with little financial sophistication, using a cachet of exclusivity (he sometimes accepts new investors). Then there was the music mogul’s slip, “once I understood how his fund works.”

I didn’t know or remember enough to recognize the direct parallels to Madoff and since you’ve pointed them out I dread there will be enormous suffering for the unsuspecting later investors, as there was with Madoff.


message 8: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 04, 2020 05:01PM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "After getting past the rather annoying Paul section at the beginning, I’ve really been enjoying this book. For me it’s been flowing smoothly, with just enough continuity between sections to keep the sense that we’re moving forward, but enough gaps in info to keep the sense of mystery. ."

Mandel is good at pacing the hints to add mystery without frustrating me or seeming cute. I feel I recognize her characters and I’m interested in them although there are few (or none?) who are likable.

Barbara also wrote: “And what’s going on with Olivia - unless she is just really elaborately developed victim of Alkaitis’s scheming?”

I think Olivia has a role to play. I do believe Lucas’ painting of her has to show up in some unexpected place. And there’s her being outside Lucas’ former apartment where the yellow Lamborghini is parked. Has she followed someone there? Has she followed Vincent? I don’t see any innocent reason for her to be there. With all the lost relatives—Vincent’s mother’s rejected family, Paul’s estranged mother, Jonathan’s mysterious wife—I think she could be related to someone.

By the way, I know neighborhoods evolve but in Lucas’ time that neighborhood housed at least one bohemian, addicted, painter. Now a Lamborghini is parked out front? It could happen, but I’m fixated on speculating on scenarios.


message 9: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 04, 2020 06:01PM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: “ The tip-off to the SEC also follows the Madoff pattern. They received a complaint regarding unrealistic returns regardless of market conditions, but when they followed up they didn’t dig deeply because they couldn’t believe a respectable firm like his could be based on a scam.“

I forgot to say: I just KNEW Ella Kaspersky was right!
So interesting Mandel is following the Madoff story so closely.

I just looked back to find the woman who flew to France with Jonathan and Vincent, then disappeared into a guest bedroom never to be heard from. It was Yvette Bertolli. I was suspicious of her and thought she might return but this was where Jonathan surprised Vincent when she was videoing the ocean. He’d been in the back of the jet with Yvette. It seems a stretch to invent a whole named character to give him a reason not to be next to Vincent, but I’m going with that because I’m mentally overloaded with characters I expect to re-emerge with elaborate and mysterious connections to the story. 🤯


message 10: by Kari (new)

Kari | 149 comments Oh, wow, loads of helpful info, Barbara. I didn't know the details of the Madoff scheme, just enough to realize Mandel was making connections to it, though I didn't realize to what extent. Funnily, unlike you, I found Paul's chapter completely fascinating. He just seems like such an unfortunate, incredibly awkward man. I thought the imagery of the dance floor and Paul seeing the ghost of Charlie Wu was very evocative and a bit creepy. In one of the breaks where he was speaking to someone some decades in the future (was it a therapist? trying to remember), he mentioned that was only the first time he saw the ghost. Knowing that Annika is attached to the record producer somehow makes me wonder how Paul's haunting story will affect the Ponzi scheme narrative.

Thanks for bringing up the broken glass motif, OMalleycat. Between the glass hotel, the graffiti and all the other mentions, I'm trying to figure out what it could mean.

There's just an incredible layer of mystery upon mystery. The disappearing mom, Jonathan's first wife, Paul's graffiti, all the tangential characters and how they connect, Vincent as chameleon...

I thought Jonathan's speech to Olivia about how adaptable Vincent is was really fascinating, too. Vincent seems so surface, even when we get a bit more of a look at her in her chapter. Paul in his part talks a lot about trying not to be jealous with how "okay" Vincent always seems to be. But can she really be that okay, after all she's been through? I think there must be something else there, some bigger role she's playing.

On a side note, I find it funny you both have issues with Vincent's name/gender. Two of my female cats are named Dexter and Percy, and my sister is always giving me a hard time about it.


message 11: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 06, 2020 09:47PM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: "I thought Jonathan's speech to Olivia about how adaptable Vincent is was really fascinating, too. Vincent seems so surface, even when we get a bit more of a look at her in her chapter. ."

It's interesting that Olivia is dismissive of Vincent as "not a serious person," when Vincent and Olivia seem rather alike to me. Jonathan says that Vincent "sees what a given situation requires and she adapts herself accordingly. . .She decided to be a certain kind of person and she achieved it." Doesn't that seem exactly like young Olivia with her careful dressing and prepared lines and witticisms? In Part 2 (but not too much of a spoiler I hope) Vincent observes Olivia and thinks "she's trying too hard."

I think the difference between them is that Olivia is sometimes acting, as she assumed of Vincent. Olivia is perpetually self-conscious and wears a role as armor. But Vincent isn't pretending. She actually becomes the thing she wants to be, an act of will as Jonathan says. She's more amorphous than Olivia. Perhaps that's why Olivia doesn't see her as serious. Also perhaps because Vincent has used this skill to attach herself to a man, a rich man, and Olivia did not.

It's also apparent Olivia doesn't recognize this quality in herself though she sees it in Vincent. She's conscious in retrospect of the image she tried to project when she was young, and ironic about it in remembrance. But she's not conscious of what Vincent recognizes in her--that she's still trying too hard.

Perhaps it's that Vincent has a different motivation. As you said, Vincent has been through a lot. She may be driven to achieve comfort in any circumstances. She seizes opportunity and makes the most of it. That's most obvious in her relationship with Jonathan, but when Paul found her at sixteen living in a dicey neighborhood in Vancouver, she seems to him a "put together person." At sixteen and self-supporting she's assumed an image that will best serve her in the grown-up world she's thrown into.

Kari also wrote:"On a side note, I find it funny you both have issues with Vincent's name/gender."
I'm through with the book and still sometimes have to think for a second to remember who Vincent is. Partly it's also that my immediate thought is always Van Gogh.

I Wikipedia'd Edna St. Vincent Millay last night, not about her name but because I wondered why Vincent's mother, the forest loner woman would be such a fan of Millay whom I thought of as a quintessential New Yorker. Attended Vassar, lived in Greenwich Village, occasionally attended the Algonquin Round Table, ardent 1920's feminist. Turns out she was a lyrical poet. I only read poetry under pressure and what little I knew about Millay was from her appearance in other people's lives. I've had a biography of her on my TBR for about 10 years. Maybe if I'd read it I'd learn something.

ANYWAY, my point is I learned that when the poet was young she liked to be called Vincent. After I'd been thinking it was a ridiculous reduction of her name.

Kari, you'll find that I can go on and on about almost anything and my feelings aren't hurt if you ignore me. By the way, I'm Jan (pleased to meet you!). OMalleycat has been my online moniker for more than 20 years, since the days when one didn't use one's real name online. I'm too attached to OMalleycat to drop it but everyone calls me Jan or Jan O'Cat.


message 12: by Kari (new)

Kari | 149 comments OMalleycat wrote: "It's interesting that Olivia is dismissive of Vincent as "not a serious person," when Vincent and Olivia seem rather alike to me... Olivia is perpetually self-conscious and wears a role as armor. "

In the last part of section one, Olivia seems to close to this self-awareness when she wonders whether she is a "serious person" or not after pinning Vincent as "not". But she interestingly doesn't seem to dwell on it too long, as if she isn't really looking for the answer. I also wonder what her carb sensitivity has to do with this, the fact that she purposefully drugs herself with bagels (lol) to nap away the day. Too much sleep can be an avoidance mechanism. What is she avoiding?

I'm kind of interested in this notion of "serious person". It seems like such a weird, broad, and nebulous category to use on people. What does she mean by it? Serious, as in drive or ambition? Serious, as in thoughtful, contemplative? I'm not as far as you, but in a lot of ways it's almost like Vincent isn't really a person at all; she's just a shifting prism, a response to what other people have expected her to be. I wonder if the same can be said of Olivia and her "trying too hard".

OMalleycat wrote: "I Wikipedia'd Edna St. Vincent Millay last night, not about her name but because I wondered why Vincent's mother, the forest loner woman would be such a fan of Millay whom I thought of as a quintessential New Yorker."

That's really interesting! Thanks for this information. I don't know much about Millay; like you, I just read a bit of her poetry in college. I think it's cool that she used to prefer to be called Vincent; I have to think that is purposeful on Mandel's part, as she seems to be so detail-oriented in her writing.

OMalleycat wrote: "Kari, you'll find that I can go on and on about almost anything and my feelings aren't hurt if you ignore me. By the way, I'm Jan (pleased to meet you!)."

Oh, jeez, I can definitely ramble a bit myself. I love these types of discussions. Reminds me of my college days! It's nice to meet you as well, Jan!


message 13: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 1189 comments Barbara wrote: "Oops! I meant to start by complimenting you, Jan, on the summaries! Another book that is hard to distill on a chapter by chapter basis."

Yes, thanks Jan for the great summaries.

I am listening to this book on audio, which might not have been the smartest idea. Between the numerous characters and time shifts I have been pretty off balance so far during the story.


message 14: by Kari (new)

Kari | 149 comments I don't listen to audiobooks in general because I have attention issues and start losing track of the story, but I would imagine this one is especially difficult!


message 15: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: "I'm kind of interested in this notion of "serious person". It seems like such a weird, broad, and nebulous category to use on people. What does she mean by it? Serious, as in drive or ambition? Serious, as in thoughtful, contemplative?"

Kari, there was a time, mostly 50's and 60's, where "serious" was a frequent descriptor. I've just sat here for several minutes trying to think what it meant. You're right in both respects: both ambitious and deeply thoughtful. The divide was, I think, between people like that and people who lived a more surface life of appearances and acquisitions. That's not very different than the way people are now but I think then there was less awareness that both aspects might exist simultaneously in a single person.

You'll not be surprised to learn that women were generally considered not serious. There were many books written in the early to mid 60's asserting women's ability to think and achieve. So Olivia's classifications interest me. Presumably she thinks of herself as serious (though I dimly remember that she wonders at some point if she is). She has a career, her younger self had an avant-garde lifestyle. She has "character." Yet her career is only briefly successful, and she shortly resorts to low level wage earning. Even she realizes, at least in her later life, that her character is a construct.

Olivia thinks Vincent "not serious" and I get that. Vincent has a shapeless character and is unknown even to us, the readers. She becomes what suits her circumstance. But she has ambition, mostly in the sense of single-mindedness, in pursuing what she wants. As Jonathan notes, Vincent decides what she wants and achieves it. I think Olivia doesn't see that because what Vincent wants (and I don't claim to know what it is, especially at this point in the book) isn't what Olivia would choose.

Both women have the quality of being sharply observant, and judgmental, of others. I'm not sure either recognizes it in the other. I still think of them as quite similar but will have to discuss that in a later section--if I remember.


message 16: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Sandi wrote: "I am listening to this book on audio, which might not have been the smartest idea. Between the numerous characters and time shifts I have been pretty off balance so far during the story.."

Sandi and Barbara, this is two books in a row that are similar in having numerous characters and a lot of moving back and forth in time. I seriously don't understand how you ear-readers can keep track of whose head you're in and where you are in time.

I think Mandel in Part One deliberately created a dreamlike, nebulous world and I thought the story got on more solid footing later in the book.


message 17: by Ann (last edited Jun 13, 2020 04:27PM) (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Thanks Jan O'Cat for the detailed summaries! They are outstanding and immensely helpful. The points that each of you have made are so detailed and wonderful!, I feel like I jumped right back into the book!

I am reading an ePub copy along with finally getting the library loan for the audio. This is quite a meaty part one to discuss!

This afternoon, while I was out in the car for a brief food/prescription run, I became immersed in the audio. Like Sandi mentioned it can be a bit disconcerting to follow the different threads on audio and I see upon reading the summaries I have missed some nuance.


message 18: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Jan O'Cat: I am so glad you summarized the first chapter of impressions with such detail. With a print book I often go back to a prologue at the end to see what ties together and this recounting of the date and the hazy feeling snippets brings much into sharper focus. But not too sharp.
This is a winding tale and full of colorful details that do lend themselves to audio listening with characters having enough off the page nuance to make them intriguing to a high degree.
I am going to start my comments with the end of part one - Olivia - We meet her in 1958 and I was immediately drawn to her. I want to know more. As a painter, and a painter's model she tells her tale with light brush strokes and a wash of color that isn't revealing the depth that I am eager to learn. When she was gone I literally shouted (in the car by myself), "No! Come back to Olivia!


OMalleycat wrote: "Chapter 1 December 2018
Really more of a prologue than a chapter, a series of impressions:
- Plummeting off a ship in a storm, camera flying away
- Sweep me up.."



message 19: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann’s here! Let the party begin! 🎊🧁🎉

I’ve been waiting for you, Ann, because you’ve read Station Eleven. I read in a review there are some characters in that book who also appear in this one. The reviewer specifically mentioned Leon Prevant. I also wondered about Yvette Bertolli as she had an odd nothing appearance in Part 1 and also shows up later in what can only be called cameo appearances. It struck me as strange that Mandel would create a named character for such small sketches. She immediately jumped to mind when I learned that some characters were visiting from the earlier book (which must take place later in time from what I’ve read of the plot).


message 20: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Oh the pressure! Lol, Jan, I’ve not been to a party in so long I may not know how to act! And I appreciate your faith in my memory of character names from a book I read in 2015 (and did love)

OMalleycat wrote: "Ann’s here! Let the party begin! 🎊🧁🎉

I’ve been waiting for you, Ann, because you’ve read Station Eleven. I read in a review there are some characters in that book who also appear i..."



message 21: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Barbara: how interesting and helpful to know of the parallels with details I did not recall of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. The greed boggles my mind. I also was not enamored with Paul’s creepy actions in the beginning, but after reading the summaries the questions have me eager for more and to know why he made the message on the glass.

Barbara wrote: "Having worked in the administrative ends of the securities industry since 1977 I can testify that asset managers (1) definitely think they are above others, and (2) definitely make a boatload of money..."


message 22: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Kari: There are mysteries on top of mysteries and I’ve wondered if Vincent is afraid of Paul. He seems to be unstable and has an unhealthy attitude of jealousy regarding her childhood with two parents and his broken home experience. What did happen to the two mothers? I guess we will find out.

Kari wrote: "There's just an incredible layer of mystery upon mystery. The disappearing mom, Jonathan's first wife, Paul's graffiti, all the tangential characters and how they connect, Vincent as chameleon..."


message 23: by Russ (new)

Russ | 330 comments Count me in the crowd against Vincent's name--it is a read stop. I think it's purposeful. The author always uses "actor" when applied to what we used to call actresses. That is clear enough, but there's a page or two of references to a love affair with a "ballet dancer" without using a gender pronoun. In my day, ballerina=female, ballet dancer=male, which changes the implications of those particular passages. It's like the lines are being blurred intentionally.

Regarding the glass etching, am I being naive or was it really Paul? I see that all the rest of the characters assume it has to be Paul, but I have my doubts...


message 24: by Kari (new)

Kari | 149 comments I like your take, Russ. Definitely a lot of intentional line blurring here.


message 25: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Russ wrote: ". Regarding the glass etching, am I being naive or was it really Paul? I see that all the rest of the characters assume it has to be Paul, but I have my doubts... "

I’m not going to answer that, Russ. I assume you’re being rhetorical! :-)

But I completely agree with you that I never took any of Mandel’s plot points at face value. Her style of writing with dropping hints and moving on led me to conjure up all kinds of places I thought the story might go—was you can see from my posts! Mandel had a way of keeping me on edge through most of the book, never entirely certain that I knew what was going on.


message 26: by Ann (last edited Jun 28, 2020 03:17PM) (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Russ and Jan: Vincent's name didn't bother me, perhaps a .byproduct of audio listening helping differentiate.
Mandel did seem to coat everything in a film, to obscure and blur, so I expect the fluidity of Vincent's name choice was deliberate and it was effective - at immediately setting the tone of the book from that point to make us wonder what other off-center references and events would occur. Paul we could sort of understand, that he was weak and troubled... but Vincent, she was a mystery to unravel, even simply her name.

OMalleycat wrote: "Her style of writing with dropping hints and moving on led me to conjure up all kinds of places I thought the story might go—was you can see from my posts! Mandel had a way of keeping me on edge through most of the book, never entirely certain that I knew what was going on. "

Russ wrote: "Count me in the crowd against Vincent's name--it is a read stop. I think it's purposeful. The author always uses "actor" when applied to what we used to call actresses.
It's like the lines are being blurred intentionally."



message 27: by Kathryn in FL (new)

Kathryn in FL (kathryninapopka) | 8 comments Thank you OMalleyCat for writing a very concise and thorough synopsis. You hit all the highlights.

The biggest thing that is hanging over my head is that we really have so little info about the disappearance of Vincent's mother (yes, I agree that Millay would have been the best choice and I can't stand that name it is annoying and my head can't seem to accept that she is a female). I am wondering if we have overlooked some hint about her demise?

I noticed the Bernie Madoff references immediately. We see that Olivia calls Vincent the chameleon but Jonathan is even more so, my opinion. He must be to be so persuasive and manipulative. He certainly doesn't allow anyone to see him fully, except Anya??

Regarding Olivia, O'Malleycat says " I don’t see any innocent reason for her to be there. With all the lost relatives—Vincent’s mother’s rejected family, Paul’s estranged mother, Jonathan’s mysterious wife—I think she could be related to someone." I think that is a great observation. I didn't really consider as a candidate for any of these women, you've mentioned.
ANYWAY, my point is I learned that when the poet was young she liked to be called Vincent. After I'd been thinking it was a ridiculous reduction of her name. {You are a very clever lady}.

Since Paul's part was the beginning of the story, I felt unmoored when we skipped forward after he was forced to leave the hotel. It bothered me that different people became in focus and yet, we have little idea of what happened to Paul except we know that Charlie's death had a significant impact which may have prevented him from having a good life.

Russ said, "Regarding the glass etching, am I being naive or was it really Paul? I see that all the rest of the characters assume it has to be Paul, but I have my doubts..." Me too Russ, I think Vincent is the culprit or had him write it.

Is Olivia spying on Vincent? Did she once pursue Jonathan? Is she wondering if perhaps had she been more adaptable like Vincent she could have been Jon's wife instead of Vincent?


message 28: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Kathryn, your comment about feeling 'unmoored' when the story initially skipped from Paul is a good description of how the book not only describes the characters' lives, but also how it often leaves the reader feeling unmoored.


message 29: by Kathryn in FL (new)

Kathryn in FL (kathryninapopka) | 8 comments Thanks Ann. I certainly felt that way.

I only see a thread for chapters 1-5, is there more?


message 30: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Kathryn: There are more threads! See if this link to the upper folder works for you! https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group...
or here is a link to the next set of chapters 6-9 in that folder:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Kathryn in FL wrote: "Thanks Ann. I certainly felt that way.

I only see a thread for chapters 1-5, is there more?"



message 31: by Le Chuck (new)

Le Chuck | 31 comments I greatly appreciate this discussion and have little more to add! I am reading this immediately following Station Eleven, which was such a different approach than I am accustomed to (in a refreshing way). Mandel sets the stage meticulously, yet purposely leaves just the right amount of space to create intrigue, suspense and to allow the reader some room for interpretation. The odd details, such as the choice of “Vincent” as a name, in my view, are purposeful, playing on the recurring theme of duality. This literary element is intended to give us pause. Could I have been someone else? If so, who would I be? Would I be the same person had I chosen to take a different path?


message 32: by Barbara K (new)

Barbara K | 414 comments Great observations, Chuck! This book never seems to run out of ideas to think about.


message 33: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Le Chuck: i read Station Eleven a few years ago and think reading the two books closer together would have been interesting. Lucky for you. ;)
I like how you describe the "right amount of space" Mandel provides to allow space for interpretation. In both books I recall that being true and welcome.
Le Chuck wrote: "I greatly appreciate this discussion and have little more to add! I am reading this immediately following Station Eleven, which was such a different approach than I am accustomed to (in a refreshing way)....
Mandel sets the stage meticulously, yet purposely leaves just the right amount of space to create intrigue, suspense and to allow the reader some room for interpretation.
.."



message 34: by Janice (new)

Janice Elliott-Howard (jyhoward1066) | 62 comments There are a multitude of story lines going on. At first, I thought it was all about Paul's addiction which was brought on by guilt. Then we are introduced to Vincent who I originally thought was Paul's cousin and found out she is his half-sister and he fades from the story. Vincent has her own issues with her mother's passing and transforms into whatever necessary to keep herself a float.

I am going to try to stick with it, but I find myself re-reading chapters and still floundering in a state of confusion.


message 35: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Janice: I understand! I found just "going with the flow" worked well, and I got past the early confusion. Or maybe I didn't get past it, I embraced it. Lol

Janice wrote: "There are a multitude of story lines going on.
....I am going to try to stick with it, but I find myself re-reading chapters and still floundering in a state of confusion.."



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