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Group Read - The Glass Hotel > Group Read - The Glass Hotel part Two ch 6-9 Spoilers Welcome

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Comment thread for the group read book The Glass Hotel: part two Chapters 6-9. Spoilers welcome on this topic.
If the first to post please briefly summarize to guide the discussion.


message 2: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 04, 2020 06:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments The Glass Hotel Part 2 Chapters 6-9

Chapter 6 2009
“No star burns forever” is scratched in the wall above Alkaitis’ prison bunk. His cellmate is Hazleton, young and talkative, who tells him Roberts etched the words. Roberts, an “old guy,” read and sat staring into space a lot. Alkaitis is reminded of his mother who, after Lucas’ death, sat and stared. He’s in a minimum security prison which isn’t as bad as he thought it would be. Little drama or violence. He describes the prison compound including a hospital of which he is scared because “old men disappear” there. His sentence is 170 years. To him the setting and sentence induce a feeling of dissociation like delirium. Alkaitis is interviewed by a journalist and she asks why he didn’t flee before arrest. He says it didn’t occur to him. He thinks “Money is a game he knew how to play. . .Money is a country and he had the keys to the kingdom.”

Since incarceration Alkaitis fantasizes about how he could have fled and daydreams of parallel universes he could be living in. He envisions reconciling with his daughter, Claire, who called the FBI. They’re not in contact. Lately it’s occurred to him that Vincent must have been acting, at least some of the time. He doesn’t know where she is.

Chapter 7 2008-2013
Vincent waits at a container ship’s gangway until two men come to take her aboard. One is her new boss, the ship’s chef. The other is Geoffrey Bell. The compactness of Vincent’s room contrasts to her former sumptuous life. She thinks, “Luxury is a weakness.” She’s delighted when the ship leaves land. She never wants to live on land again.

Vincent remembers the day Alkaitis was arrested. She packed money and clothes. She decided not to wear make-up and clumsily chopped her hair. She shortly finds a bartending job and a second job, which she prefers, as a kitchen trainee. As a bartender she’s terrified that each new customer could be an investor. One day Mirella comes in. Vincent tried to call her when her husband died, but got only voicemail. At the bar Vincent expects her to unleash accusations and she wants to apologize and tell Mirella that she didn’t know. But Mirella pretends not to recognize her, even when Vincent calls her by name. Vincent walks off the job.

Her mother worked on a ship for a time and Vincent loved her stories. She dreams of getting a job at sea. After three months asea, Vincent has struck up a relationship with Geoffrey Bell. She tells him that she doesn’t feel she has a home on land any more. She likes her life now; she’s never been so happy.

Chapter 8 2015
Alkaitis is now deeply involved with what he calls his “counterlife,” his daydreams of alternate lives he could be living. They overlap and mingle with actual memories though he wants to keep them separate. He remembers the last time he and Vincent stayed at Hotel Caiette. Early in the morning he awakened and went looking for her. He found her sitting in the lobby with Walter. For a moment “her mask slipped” and he saw her disappointment when he appeared. His counterlives increasingly slip into real life and Alkaitis goes to see the doctor where he does poorly on a memory test.

In his cell one evening Alkaitis is reading the paper and hears a voice, “I’m here.” He talks about ghosts with Hazleton who tells of someone he knew who saw the ghost of a man he’d killed. Hazleton says he thinks it was a guilty conscience. “Faisal flickers slightly. . .then blinks out.”

Chapter 9 2008
Vincent remembers the boat trip she and Alkaitis made with Olivia. Vincent feels sad about Olivia whom she sees trying too hard. “You can’t let anyone see how hard you’re trying.” Olivia mentions the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Vincent looks up BAM online and finds her brother has had some success with his music and is performing at BAM. The online blurb says his performance includes home videos each exactly five minutes long. Vincent knows she left a lot of her videos at home and Paul had ample opportunity to plunder them. Vincent remembers one of Paul’s childhood visits when he was relentlessly unkind. Her mother told her Paul has always seemed to think Vincent “. . .owes him something. . .You don’t. Nothing that happened to him is your fault.”

Vincent goes to see Paul perform. He plays her videos with techno-musical accompaniment. The videos unleash a torrent of memories and Vincent finds Paul’s music nightmarish. She leaves the theater. She contemplates suing Paul but knows she has no proof the videos are hers and legal action would upset Alkaitis for whom she’s a calm harbor. How did she let herself become so dependent on another? Because dependency is easier, she realizes.

In the following days Vincent has trouble sleeping. One morning she gets up very early and goes into Manhattan. She thinks she sees her mother in a tour group. She sees one of Alkaitis’ asset managers in the Met and they talk briefly. Vincent reflects on the limitations of her arrangement with Jonathan. “. . .it might be nice to fall in love. . .” or sleep with someone she was attracted to and to whom “she owed nothing.” Heading to Alkaitis’ office she has a panic attack, convinced she’ll die if she gets on the subway. Alkaitis’ receptionist calls saying he’s asked for Vincent to arrive early. It’s urgent.

Claire and a man, Harvey Alexander, whom Vincent doesn’t know, are with Alkaitis in his office. He stumbles in telling her “. . .the asset management unit is all. . . “ and breaks off. Vincent asks if he’s bankrupt and Claire exclaims it’s much worse than that. Alexander warns them there’s a chance that anything they say will be “repeated in a courtroom.” Alkaitis thinks, then asks, “Vincent. . .do you know what a Ponzi scheme is?


message 3: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 04, 2020 11:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara, I posted the summaries with that final line then went over to your Part 1 comments where you were already on the Ponzi scheme. You were on top of it!

This section had a much more linear structure than Part 1. Yes, there’s still some sliding around in time but without elision among characters at the same time. I’m not sure the linearity has any meaning—perhaps a contrasting atmosphere from remote, mysterious, primal, childhood Caiette to hard and fast adult New York?

Suzanne, Alkaitis’ wife, makes a real appearance! I’m less suspicious of her now. Instead of the endless mysterioso, she has a specific disease (pancreatic cancer) which for me makes a fake death less likely than a real one. I truly thought the reason Alkaitis didn’t marry Vincent was because Suzanne was alive but out of the picture somehow and Alkaitis wanted to avoid bigamy. Is it possible that instead he was trying to protect Vincent from liability? Or just to give her the out of saying they were never really married?

The interesting thing about Suzanne is she was Alkaitis’ co-conspirator. She knew what he was doing. He most appreciated that he didn’t have to hide from her.

As many times as it was foreshadowed, it had completely escaped me until this section that the crisis of the story occurs in 2008, the recession, with a financier as a main character. In the land of money. {smack forehead}

Now that I’ve typed “financier” I remember that Paul started the book as a finance student. But he didn’t get far enough for that to really have any bearing, I think.

I don’t trust Vincent and can picture her having somehow siphoned money from Alkaitis, spending some years on the seven seas, then returning to establish her own more modest kingdom of money. If she goes back to Canada it’s unlikely she’d run into anyone who’d know her. Oh, with the exception of Paul. I wonder if childhood friend Melissa will show up again.

I find it hard to believe that in three years Paul has gone from fired hotel houseman to a musician successful enough to perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Is this a boost from the music mogul? (again the ever present question: but why?) Or is it just a plot device to drive a further wedge between Vincent and Paul?

No progress on Olivia’s story in this part. I still think she’s got a story. Is Annika going to show up? I think she has to. What about Prevant? I think all Alkaitis’ victims will be back (Faisal as a ghost!). Probably we’ll look in on the trial.

How about Walter, the hotel manager? He was a well developed character. Does he have more story? It would be a nice full circle if somehow he ended up with the hotel he loves. But that’s unlikely. He could end up tossed aside because the hotel closes or new owners don’t rehire him.

In Part 1 I found Alkaitis a distasteful character. But as soon as he began to have memory problems I began to have sympathy for him. Largely this is for a personal reason. In the last year my brother has begun to have serious memory issues and in much the same way as Alkaitis. It’s not just that he forgets but that he “remembers” things as he wishes they had happened. It’s a mixture of reality, memory, and fantasy. And I think his problems stem from the same cause as Alkaitis’. When my brother retired his life lost its purpose and interest and he became isolated. Alkaitis, for much of his life, was a star at the game of money. But as his cell wall says, the star can’t burn forever and when he loses his kingdom he starts to flame out. I didn’t expect to feel sad for him, but I did.


Barbara K | 414 comments That's fascinating, Jan, that you have personal experience, through your brother, with memory/parallel reality continuum. I can see how that section really resonates for you, making a new connection with Jonathan. It's odd what can happen to people when they walk away, even voluntarily, much less on a forced basis, from their life's work.

You've already listed so many of the unknowns and so many of the possible directions for the plot! I hadn't thought of Vincent as "skimming" from Jonathan, but it's certainly a possibility. I think Jonathan's reasons for not marrying Vincent were twofold: he saw no possibility of recreating what he had with Suzanne and thus wanted a different kind of relationship with Vincent so as to avoid comparisons, and he wanted to keep her at a legal distance from his business, for his benefit and hers.

My sense of Vincent is that she wants to be disconnected from anything with the potential to haunt her, to hold her with memories and unkept promises. Her parents' deaths (but did her mother really die? we still don't know) and Paul's betrayal, have given her no reason to trust in family connections. And certainly not Jonathan, although she was already mentally preparing to leave the Land of Money before his downfall. (BTW, like Claire, Madoff's sons ran his brokerage business and claimed to be unaware of what was going on upstairs.)

I hadn't thought about a connection between Paul (what a creepy guy) and the record producer, but I suspected that Annika could have been involved in some way. I wonder if his show at BAM was akin to an artist suddenly being the hot new thing on the gallery circuit?

I also keep thinking of Prevant and Walter. It's hard to believe that there isn't a Prevant connection given the shipping industry theme. And you're right, Jan, Mandel spent more time developing Walter's character than many of the others, so I can't believe he doesn't factor in down the road. Maybe he gets together with Melissa? But how does he/they re-engage with the plot?

I keep losing track of Olivia. Her initial connection with the rest of the plot/characters is so far in the past that I can't see her in any role other than as Jonathan's financial victim - though there IS the matter of that painting that is as yet unaccounted for.

Going that far back in time also makes me speculate on how Jonathan got started in his career. Could there be more meaningful secrets to be revealed on that front?

I've been able to get in some listening today, but I stopped to jot down these notes before moving on to Part 3. I can't wait to see where it's all going to end up!


Kari | 149 comments In light of the memory issues Jonathan begins having in prison, it is interesting that the elderly woman Vincent sits next to at Paul's performance also seems to have memory issues. And in a sense, you can say that Paul has "stolen" Vincent's memories as well. Because a lot of this narrative moves back and forth between narrators and their memories of the events, it calls into question the nature of these events, as what actually happened seems to be nebulous and changing.

In relation to the theme of glass, I wonder if we're thinking of glass as a way to reveal, to make clear? Or as a way to distort? Depending on what kind and how it's used, glass can do either.

I am sorry to hear about your brother, Jan. Before my grandmother passed, she slipped into dementia, and it was always really rough. I don't wish that on anyone.

Barbara wrote: "My sense of Vincent is that she wants to be disconnected from anything with the potential to haunt her, to hold her with memories and unkept promises. "

How well-put, Barbara! In light of Charlie Wu haunting Paul and Faisal haunting Jonathan, it is interesting that Vincent seems to reject the potential of being haunted by her past. When she works in the bar Mirella frequents and finds Mirella is uninterested in even acknowledging her existence, much less trying to lay to rest what happened between them, Vincent walks out of her job--and then her entire life, as she chooses to take to the sea. A pretty extreme reaction to a potential loose end she can't tie up!

It seems that Vincent holds some sort of prophetic quality. We have the swimming and odd breath-holding practices juxtaposed with what we think is happening in the very first chapter, the drowning dreams, and her panic attack at the subway (where I think the "death" she's reacting to here means the death of who she is in that moment, that she will have to change again, slip into a different life, and become someone else after this).

I am also interested in how all of these side characters re-emerge with the plot. Part 2 was rather short!


message 6: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 09, 2020 04:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "My sense of Vincent is that she wants to be disconnected from anything with the potential to haunt her, to hold her with memories and unkept promises. Her parents' deaths (but did her mother really die? we still don't know) and Paul's betrayal, have given her no reason to trust in family connections.."

Oh, you're absolutely right, Barbara, and I hadn't realized it until you said it. I thought Vincent strangely unscathed by losing her mother and being sent off to live an apparently fractious life with her aunt. And although Paul's resentment was mostly beneath the surface, still Vincent was aware of it at a young life. You're right. She has no reason to trust connections so she floats through life without deeply bonding with anyone or anything.

Barbara also mentioned: "(BTW, like Claire, Madoff's sons ran his brokerage business and claimed to be unaware of what was going on upstairs.)

What I remember most about the Madoff scandal is, first, the images of his desperate and devastated investors gathered outside his building. But I also remembered one son's suicide in the years immediately after. Whether guilty conscience because he did in fact know (at some level) or an inability to live with the shame of his father's despoiling so many, the image of his son hanging while Madoff sat in prison was horrifying. (And now Madoff is asking for release on compassionate grounds. You've gotta be kidding.)


message 7: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 09, 2020 04:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: ". . .it is interesting that Vincent seems to reject the potential of being haunted by her past. When she works in the bar Mirella frequents and finds Mirella is uninterested in even acknowledging her existence, much less trying to lay to rest what happened between them, Vincent walks out of her job--and then her entire life, as she chooses to take to the sea. A pretty extreme reaction to a potential loose end she can't tie up! ."

Good point, Kari! She wouldn't have been able to do that so smoothly if she hadn't been poised for flight already. She was ready to kick the whole Kingdom of Money as far away as she could.

I had a hard time understanding Mirella's game. Sitting at a table ignoring Vincent is one thing, but sitting at the bar seemed deliberate and pointed. What did Mirella hope to get out of it? Surely she knew Vincent well enough to know she wouldn't beg or dissolve in tears. She doesn't push for a chance to air her grievances. Mandel makes a point of telling us, through Vincent, that Mirella and Faisal were truly in love. But Mirella playing that game with Vincent doesn't strike me as grief-stricken. But everyone gets to grieve in their own way. . .

Kari also wrote: "her panic attack at the subway (where I think the "death" she's reacting to here means the death of who she is in that moment, that she will have to change again, slip into a different life, and become someone else after this).

I was also struck that it happened while Vincent was going down, below the surface, just as in the first chapter where she's descending in the ocean. I think you're completely right that she had a premonition, perhaps based on inklings of Jonathan's true business, that whatever would cause him to call her to the office meant an end to life as she knew it.


Russ | 330 comments OMalleycat wrote: "Kari wrote: ". . .it is interesting that Vincent seems to reject the potential of being haunted by her past. When she works in the bar Mirella frequents and finds Mirella is uninterested in even ac..."

That Vincent-Mirella bar scene didn't quite work for me. Vincent is so hurt by Mirella pretending not to know her that she walks off the job? Her employer didn't do anything to her--Mirella did!

But that's just me trying to apply rationality to a rather mystical story of spacey (and cruel or wounded) characters who float in and out reality, time, & each other's lives.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Russ wrote: "But that's just me trying to apply rationality to a rather mystical story of spacey (and cruel or wounded) characters who float in and out reality, time, & each other's lives."

Russ, I had to laugh at that! Sounds like you’re not enjoying the book much. I’m sorry I encouraged you to read it! It is odd, but I enjoyed it.

For me there was enough set up of Vincent disliking her bartending job both in the hotel and in New York to make this understandable. As I recall she spoke of the hotel job as difficult because she had to play a role for each customer. More specifically in the NY job she was worried about Alkaitis’ victims showing up at her bar and recognizing her. And then one did, Mirella.

Somewhere I objected to the same scene but it was Mirella’s behavior I doubted. She should be grieving and seething with rage that Faisal committed suicide when he lost his money. But for me that doesn’t translate to deliberately moving closer to Vincent and ignoring her overtures. That just seemed high-schoolish to me. “I’m cutting you dead so you’ll suffer as I’m suffering.” Seriously?

So Vincent’s worst fear is realized. With a second job already and future plans in place, Vincent walks away from the job that put her in public.


message 10: by Russ (new) - rated it 2 stars

Russ | 330 comments OMalleycat wrote: "I’m sorry I encouraged you to read it! It is odd, but I enjoyed it."

That's OK! I'm glad you did. I'm enjoying being part of a group read again. The discussion tends to elevate the material.

I've liked seeing everybody's observations here. I would have overlooked several elements that didn't strike me as important when I read them but the comments have highlighted them. For instance, Vincent's mother. I hadn't given her much thought, but yes, I see now that's significant. Likewise Walter & Prevant.


message 11: by Kari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kari | 149 comments OMalleycat wrote: "Somewhere I objected to the same scene but it was Mirella’s behavior I doubted. She should be grieving and seething with rage that Faisal committed suicide when he lost his money. "

It is very high-school, but for some reason that made it feel more realistic to me? We all lash out in different and unexpected ways when we are grieving so I could see how Mirella really wanted to "get" to Vincent, to make her feel the same hurt and abandonment Mirella felt.


message 12: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Jan: I imagine this parallel in the story with your own brother's changing memories must have been a bit surreal. I am so sorry to hear that your brother has moved into a different plane of recall. When a family member has memory issues, it is heartbreaking.
I'm not sure I had sympathy for Jonathan Akaitis though I found his meandering thoughts insightful for the backstory and his encounters in his mind fascinating.

OMalleycat wrote: "In Part 1 I found Alkaitis a distasteful character. But as soon as he began to have memory problems I began to have sympathy for him. Largely this is for a personal reason. In the last year my brother has begun to have serious memory issues and in much the same way as Alkaitis. It’s not just that he forgets but that he “remembers” things as he wishes they had happened. It’s a mixture of reality, memory, and fantasy. And I think his problems stem from the same cause as Alkaitis’. When my brother retired his life lost its purpose and interest and he became isolated. Alkaitis, for much of his life, was a star at the game of money. But as his cell wall says, the star can’t burn forever and when he loses his kingdom he starts to flame out. I didn’t expect to feel sad for him, but I did. "


message 13: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Kari: I see your point, and think perhaps that was Mirella's intent - to simply rail at Vincent would have opened up communication and that she wanted to hurt Vincent more than a verbal attack would have. I wonder if Mirella knew that Vincent was clueless about the scam until the end of the bubble or if she suspected that Vincent should have known something.
Vincent almost seemed to be putting herself out in public with her changed appearance to see if she could pass unnoticed, but then when her former best friend (or at least spending money pal/ bff) ignored her it was too much to imagine passing unnoticed a moment longer. In that mindset I an see her quitting on the spot. The one person she wanted to recognize her refused to do so.

Kari wrote: "It is very high-school, but for some reason that made it feel more realistic to me? We all lash out in different and unexpected ways when we are grieving so I could see how Mirella really wanted to "get" to Vincent, to make her feel the same hurt and abandonment Mirella felt"


message 14: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Russ: That is a good summary of the tone of the book.
This telling of the events is spacey and mystical and full of wounded and cruel characters, the feeling of floating between the past present and future is accomplished in a fascinating manner.

Russ wrote: "But that's just me trying to apply rationality to a rather mystical story of spacey (and cruel or wounded) characters who float in and out reality, time, & each other's lives"


message 15: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Jan O'Cat:
The revelation about Suzanne and her apparently complete disregard for the harm the scam caused victims was a shock and most distasteful to me. I even began to wonder (but only slightly) if Jonathan was continuing the scam "in her memory" - as surely he could have stopped at some point. It explained the aloof nature of the arrangement Jonathan had with Vincent - she was simply a prop to keep up his appearance of a successful money maker. UGH.

OMalleycat wrote: "The interesting thing about Suzanne is she was Alkaitis’ co-conspirator. She knew what he was doing. He most appreciated that he didn’t have to hide from her.



message 16: by Ann (last edited Jun 30, 2020 04:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Kari and Jan O'Cat: Paul, now he was a despicable character in my opinion. At first he was a weak, recovering addict who made a mistake, then he was just a weak guy following his sister around. But to steal her videos and pass them off as his own. Not a nice guy at all, and definitely a wedge driven there.
It was interesting that the other theater-goer next to Vincent had memory issues when Vincent saw Paul stealing her own memories from her videos. This was one of many details that really makes me like this book.

Kari wrote: "In light of the memory issues Jonathan begins having in prison, it is interesting that the elderly woman Vincent sits next to at Paul's performance also seems to have memory issues.
And in a sense, you can say that Paul has "stolen" Vincent's memories as well. Because a lot of this narrative moves back and forth between narrators and their memories of the events, it calls into question the nature of these events, as what actually happened seems to be nebulous and changing. .."


OMalleycat wrote: " I find it hard to believe that in three years Paul has gone from fired hotel houseman to a musician successful enough to perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Is this a boost from the music mogul? (again the ever present question: but why?) Or is it just a plot device to drive a further wedge between Vincent and Paul? "


message 17: by Molly (new)

Molly | 1 comments Just joined Goodread and this group because I needed to talk to someone about how bothered I am by Mirella pretending not to recognize Vincent. I love this book, but this particular scene seemed so strange to me. So strange that I thought maybe Mirella really didn't recognize her? No--impossible. Then I wondered if Mirella was an apparition, like the apparitions that are dotted throughout the later section. Maybe it wasn't really Mirella? Because I can't imagine that Mirella would really have had the composure to behave that way, when seeing Vincent so unexpectedly. Did this scene bother anyone else?


message 18: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14293 comments Molly: Welcome to the group and discussion! Yes, several others felt the same way, how could Mirella snub Vincent? At least scream at her, or cry with her or just something.
Interesting idea that Mirella might have been an apparition, I'll have to consider the possibility.

Molly wrote: "Just joined Goodread and this group because I needed to talk to someone about how bothered I am by Mirella pretending not to recognize Vincent. I love this book, but this particular scene seemed so strange to me.
So strange that I thought maybe Mirella really didn't recognize her? No--impossible.
Then I wondered if Mirella was an apparition, like the apparitions that are dotted throughout the later section. Maybe it wasn't really Mirella? Because I can't imagine that Mirella would really have had the composure to behave that way, when seeing Vincent so unexpectedly. Did this scene bother anyone else?..."



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