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Group Read - The Glass Hotel > Group Read - The Glass Hotel part 3 ch 13-16 (End) Spoilers Welcome

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message 1: by Ann (last edited Jun 05, 2020 01:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Comment thread for the group read book The Glass Hotel: part three remaining Chapters 13-16. (To the end)
Spoilers welcome on this topic. What did you think about the book?
If the first to post please briefly summarize to guide the discussion.


message 2: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Thanks Jan O'Cat for suggesting we break up part three into two segments!


Barbara K | 414 comments Great idea since 3 of the book is disproportionately long when compared with the other parts.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments The Glass Hotel Part 3 Chapters 13-16

Chapter 13 December 2018
Leon Prevant is working as a handyman at a Colorado hotel. His wife, Marie, works at Walmart. They lasted six months in their home after the Alkaitis collapse then decided to abandon the house and live in their RV. “We owned a home and then we lost it” is a catastrophe but there’s such relief in leaving it. Leon often feels lucky to be with Marie. He’s become mindful of a shadow country, people who’ve “slipped beneath the surface of society into a territory without comfort or room for error.”

Miranda calls to offer him a short term consulting job. She wants someone she can trust on an internal investigation. Michael Saparelli is looking into the disappearance from a ship of a woman, Vincent Smith. Leon remembers having heard of Vincent Alkaitis but it can't be the same woman, can it? Vincent worked for the company for five years before disappearing. She and Geoffrey Bell were heard arguing the night of her disappearance. Security cameras show her going out on deck, to a security camera blindspot, when the crew had been ordered inside due to weather. Bell went looking (he’s also on camera) but didn’t find her. Bell left the ship at the next stop.

The crew are suspicious Bell was responsible for Vincent’s disappearance. They were an on-again-off-again couple. Bell wasn’t well liked but Vincent got along with everybody. Mendoza, her boss, loved working with her and says she loved her life. As Saparelli and Prevant are disembarking at the end of the investigation, Mendoza tells them he once witnessed Bell hit a woman. He overheard the woman say if Bell did it again she’ll throw him overboard and he replied, “Not if I throw you overboard first.” Mendoza told the captain but the evidence was poor with both parties denying it and Mendoza had his back was turned. Leon writes it all down in his notebook.

On the plane the next morning Saparelli asks for Leon’s notebook, tears the last two pages out and pockets them. Saparelli tells him he knows about Leon’s impoverished, nomadic lifestyle. He’s read Leon’s online victim impact statement. It seems like a conflict of interest for Leon to investigate Alkaitis’ girlfriend. If Leon wants more consulting jobs, he doesn’t want to make a report that will get people fired. After letting Leon think about it, Saparelli tells him he’ll recommend him for future jobs. Leon says thank you. “It was that easy.” After the trip Leon’s awareness of the shadow country is rekindled. He and Marie are luckier than most shadow citizens but they are adrift beneath the surface of the U.S.

Leon forms a philosophy of overlapping countries. You spend your life moving between countries, each with its own customs and rules. Alkaitis sent him to the country of the cheated. Saparelli robbed him of his belief he was incorruptible. Saparelli sends Leon one of Vincent’s videos of the ship’s wake at night, shot leaning over the railing. Leon understands Saparelli sent it to assuage his guilt but to Leon it proves nothing except Vincent’s recklessness.

A year later Leon and Marie sit on a bench in New Mexico. “We could do a lot worse” says Leon. Marie misquotes one of his favorite songs: “We move through this world so lightly” and Leon is troubled by the thought. Their lack of encumbrance also means lack of an anchor. “He wouldn’t mind being more anchored to this earth.”

Chapter 14 December 2029
It’s 21 years later and Simone is telling her Alkaitis story at a cocktail party. She describes the “atmosphere of dread” of the last days.

The asset managers have served their sentences. Ron avoided conviction. Harvey was sentenced to time served while he assisted the prosecution. Joelle is released to wait in a bus station. Her sister is late picking her up. Oskar takes a bus through Kentucky and the beauty of the mountains, mist, and sky brings tears. He holds that image as comfort when he’s arrested on drug charges a year later. In Mexico Enrico is married with kids. In the other asset managers’ imaginations he’s a hero but he lives in constant dread of being found and apprehended.

Chapter 15
This chapter alternates chunks of Paul’s and Walter’s stories. I’ve consolidated them for brevity.

In 2008 Walter reads of Alkaitis’ arrest and faints. He invested last summer. “He acted like he was doing me a favor. . .letting me invest in his fund.” The hotel is to be sold, but who will buy it? It’s not a profit-maker. Walter calls the asset trustee, Mr. Selwyn to make a case for staying as a caretaker. While he’s on the phone with Selwyn he hears reference to Harvey Alexander being in his office. Walter loves the hotel and contemplates staying there forever. “Give me a place with no people in it, because I will never full trust another person again.”

Walter has been at the hotel alone for ten years. He’d thought of living in the grandest suite but the idea of sleeping in Alkaitis’ bed repulses him. He's stayed in his staff apartment. He caretakes, gives tours to potential buyers, and occasionally has coffee with Melissa. He luxuriates in the beauty of his surroundings both outside and in. The lobby furniture was all sold and Walter sees “a vast empty space with a panorama of wilderness beyond the glass.”

Hotel Caiette in 2005. Paul is sweeping when Ella Kaspersky starts a conversation with him. He tells her he’ll be leaving the hotel soon. He’s a composer and wants to get back to the city. Ella makes Paul a business proposition. She wants to send a message to Jonathan Alkaitis in an unforgettable way. Paul suggests writing on the window with an acid marker. When Paul wrote the message “it felt like stars exploding in his chest.” His elation lasts until he goes back in to see Vincent, Prevant, and Walter staring in horror at the glass. It hadn’t occurred to Paul that anyone else would see the message. Walter and Larry rush to cover it up. They all hear the boat: Jonathan Alkaitis is just arriving.

2018 in Edinburgh, Paul sees Ella again. Thirteen years after the graffiti, she wants to apologize, saying she shouldn’t have asked him to do it. He says he could have said no. He’s not in touch with Vincent. He saw her at his BAM concert and expected her to confront him afterward but she didn’t. He’s so often imagined the conversation they would have had it’s like it really happened. He feels condemned to always have that conversation. He’s built his career out of his BAM residency. In his head he tells Vincent, “I just took the opportunities that arose.”

Paul reflects on his drug habit. He was functional on heroin for ten years but now its potency varies making overdose an ever present threat. He gets lost returning to his hotel and sits in a doorway. There’s a woman across the street with a long apron and kerchief staring at him. He says, “Vincent?” and she disappears. Later he finds out that was the night she died.

Chapter 16
Vincent’s account of her end. At times Geoffrey wants to marry and “quit the ocean.” Vincent never wants to do either. Last night Vincent went out on deck though the crew was confined due to weather. Geoffrey is angry with her but Vincent tells him it was beautiful. He slams out and she eventually gets up to go out. “. . .(I)n an instant of calm between towering waves” she leans over the rail. On deck she sees a woman but it’s more a “disturbance in the air” than a woman. Vincent sees it’s Olivia Collins who starts to speak. Vincent’s camera falls from her hand, she grabs for it, and is over the side.

Vincent is holding hands with her mother.

It’s like the moment before sleep when you’re awake enough to realize you’re falling asleep, “thoughts and memories begin unspooling. . .one last moment of waking, choking on seawater.”
“Olivia pulls me aside to apologize. She was thinking of me. . .She didn’t think I’d see her.”
“. . .pulled me aside from where? We’re in some in-between space. . .”

“Sweep me up.”

Remembering saying “I love you” to Geoffrey. “I’d never known what the words meant. . .”

Geoffrey leaving the ship looking alone and bereft, afraid if he stays he'll be blamed. Vincent wishes she could tell him she’s all right. She’s safe now. Nothing can hurt her.

In Dubai in a dream-place she sees Jonathan. She wants to tell him she's visiting from “the ocean” but she’s also somewhere else.

She hears Paul talking to her and visits him but when he sees her he’s quiet.
Mirella doesn’t seem to see her.

Remembering Xavier and his indiscreet talk about Alkaitis' fund. “. . .I knew. . .it was just that I’d chosen not to understand.”

She sees Paul again at the Utah rehab and he tells her he’s sorry. She tells him she was a thief too, “we both got corrupted.”

In Caiette she sees her mother, still 36 years old, wearing the red cardigan she was wearing on the day she disappeared. “It was an accident, of course it was, she would never have left me on purpose. She has waited so long for me. She was always here. This was always home.”


Barbara K | 414 comments Absolutely brilliant summaries, Jan.


Barbara K | 414 comments What to say about this conclusion? The connections among characters that we had speculated about were largely there, but there was no tidy resolution to a mystery to provide closure.

I felt I liked the book, but it's really hard for my to articulate why, or to draw any conclusions as to the author's message. Each of the characters is affected to a greater or lesser extent, directly or tangentially, with the Ponzi scheme. Some are forced to come to terms with a less complicated life that can be more rewarding than their old. Leon and Marie learn to cherish their lives together, and Walter is perhaps even more content with life as caretaker than a manager. (Think of all the reading he could get done!) But Olivia and members of the Office Chorus endure a far less satisfying life without the income they had come to rely on from Alkaidis.

Is the book about corruption? Certainly plenty of that to go around. Is it about how people treat one another? About some kind of permeable barrier between the living and the dead? Is all reality an accident that we each respond to in a way that reflects our inmost being?


message 7: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 13, 2020 12:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Well, at last we have a solid reason for Mandel to name one of her main characters “Vincent.” It’s because Prevant and Saparelli need to recognize it with little doubt she’s Alkaitis’ girlfriend. ;-)

I’ve given some thought to “Vincent” and what I assume are its Latin origins, related to victor, invincible, “veni, vidi, vici.” Vincent’s mother told her Millay was born in poverty and “raised herself into a new life by sheer force of will.” Whatever mojo Mom was trying to transmit, it worked. Vincent conquers all and, as Alkaitis notes, it’s by sheer will. In any situation where she’s no longer invincible, she moves on and does what she has to do to get where she wants. That sounds kind of grim and I wonder if it’s the basis of her attraction to “sweep me up.” If she gets tired of muscling through life, it might seem a relief to relinquish to an irresistible force sweeping her away from the need for acts of will.

I ache for the Prevants taking six months before deciding to abandon their home. That would be a grievous decision and I thought I detected that each was reluctant to bring it up to the other. Still whatever money they put into mortgage, insurance, and utilities those last months was money that could have provided a cushion for them on the road. I’m so sorry they have to work so hard at their age and don’t have anything to fall back on. It must be exhausting and there are several references to the physical toll it’s taking.

Saparelli isn’t presented as a bad guy but his final confrontation with Leon is brutally aggressive and intrusive. He doesn’t want to make waves with a report that could get people in trouble (shades of the asset managers) so he leans into Leon and hits him right where he lives. With this job Leon is feeling competent, useful, and hopeful for future jobs for Miranda. Then Saparelli tells him he knows Leon’s true present circumstances. Echoing the theme of the Alkaitis schemers Saparelli finds it easy to cross the line into dishonesty. It’s likely familiar territory for him but Leon could mess it up for him.

Saparelli pressures Leon and Leon capitulates. “It was that easy” he thinks, but for a man like him it isn’t easy. He world view is altered to a bleaker landscape, the Shadow Country. Saparelli has taken Leon’s pride, integrity, and self image of incorruptibility in a fell swoop. Saparelli, evoking Alkaitis, is an manipulator but likely thinks he does a lot of good in the world. He indulges in noblesse oblige, telling Leon he’ll recommend him for future jobs and later sending him the video of Vincent’s reckless videography, intended to assuage guilt.

Poor Joelle. When she gets out of prison her kids have evidently deserted her, and her sister, after 10 or 12 years, can’t manage to get to the train station on time.

Enrico, having evaded prison time, has sentenced himself to a lifetime of dread. When Alkaitis got Ella Kaspersky’s letter he had Enrico read it and told him she’d sent it to the SEC. Enrico said, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we come to it.” I wonder if it was that advance knowledge, and years to absorb it, that gave Enrico the discernment to immediately flee when things fell apart.

Barbara you complained about Paul’s section in the opening of the book. He didn’t bother me then. But by the time he returns in Part 3 I saw your point. He’s such a blank space in the narrative and, in my mind, was interrupting the story. By this time we’ve gotten to know a lot of intriguing people and in his druggery and self-absorption Paul is an unknowable void. Was stealing Vincent’s videos intentional or a childish, thoughtless act (again that porous line)? Is he really talented or a faddish flash in the pan (broad hints that he's stealing musical ideas from Baltica)? Cheesh, the main effect of his seeing Vincent's ghost is delight in having a good story. As Paul was nodding out over drinks with Ella, I wanted to nod out too. Yes, we finally learn about the hotel window graffiti and Ella Kaspersky’s role in it, but the rest of Paul's story was a snooze fest.

I wondered why Mandel didn’t treat Ella Kaspersky as particularly admirable for her insight in Alkaitis' scheme and her whistleblowing. Throughout Kaspersky struck me as a knowledgeable gadfly. I had pictured her as disheveled and twitchy and was surprised at the end when she's described as elegant and tasteful. It seems Mandel didn’t want to build an commendable character when she’s finally going to reveal Kaspersky was behind the graffiti, but it’s odd she’s portrayed as she must have been seen by Alkaitis (and Suzanne).

I don’t know how much salary Walter made as hotel manager. I googled and the range is so broad it doesn’t help. I’m wondering how much money he could have accumulated to invest with Alkaitis. He may have gotten a premium for the isolated setting and his living expenses were low. In 2007 he’d been in Caiette for five years so I'm making a generous assumption he could have saved a few hundred thousand dollars. Canadian dollars. It seems like small potatoes for Alkaitis, living in his rarefied money world, to target for another swindle. And Walter was his employee. The further you get in the book the more contemptible Alkaitis is.

Still, out of all the investors, Walter actually gets a good return. He lives in a place he loves, doing what he wants to do. He doesn’t seem strapped for cash. Best of all, in a zig-zagging way, his beloved hotel has been bequeathed to him by Alkaitis. The only worrisome thing is his future because how long will whoever now holds the property continue to try to sell it? How long can it be kept in good enough shape to be marketable? And once it’s abandoned, where will Walter go? But for right now he’s good and I’m going with that.


message 8: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 18, 2020 09:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Hey, completely by accident I’ve just discovered a podcast about Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. It’s 6 episodes, about 30 minutes each, available on Audible for free. The podcast is called Ponzi Supernova by Steve Fishman. I haven’t listened to any of the episodes yet but heard an overview on RadioLab that tackled the very issue we discussed, Madoff’s lack of remorse, which isn’t just lack but an absolute clueless ability to feel that he himself was a victim. Fascinating!

The episode of RadioLab was from 2017. Yes, I accumulate To Be Listened To’s just as I collect TBR’s! I’m not sure if it was rebroadcast recently or if it just floated to the top of the queue because Madoff’s release request last week.


Kari | 149 comments I just finished and like you all, have a lot of unanswered questions and feelings about the book. I think Mandel just absolutely refuses to go easy on the reader, leaving us to fish around for the themes, for how we approach the characters--like Kaspersky, who as you note Jan is a bit of an odd character. I didn't understand that last conversation she had with Paul, at all. What was the point of that conversation? What was her angle there?

Leon's character arc is just so tragic. I am glad he has Marie, and that they seem to find comfort in each other.

We never quite found out what happened to Vincent's mom, but if her story parallels Vincent's, and Vincent's understanding is right--that she would never purposefully have left her--it seems likely she met with an accident too. I think the final line is interesting, when her mom looks up at Vincent calling for her, with surprise. Why surprise? Because Vincent "found" her? She didn't expect Vincent to come at that point, or at all?

The ghosts in the story--Charlie Wu, Olivia, Vincent eventually--in light of the investment scheme, which relies on money that's not actually "there"--what does that say about these people and their presence? As Marie says, "We move through this world so lightly." Are the ghosts representative of that, of these forgotten characters and the impressions they left behind?

I was shocked Annika didn't come back up in Paul's story, and that incident with Charlie Wu's death.


message 10: by Barbara K (last edited Jun 18, 2020 05:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara K | 414 comments OMalleycat wrote: ".. completely by accident I’ve just discovered a podcast about Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. It’s 6 episodes, about 30 minutes each, available on Audible for free. The podcast is called Ponzi Supernova” Thanks for sharing, Jan. I listened to the RadioLab podcast earlier today and downloaded some of the episodes from Amazon.


Barbara K | 414 comments Kari wrote: “ The ghosts in the story--Charlie Wu, Olivia, Vincent eventually--in light of the investment scheme, which relies on money that's not actually "there"--what does that say about these people and their presence? As Marie says, "We move through this world so lightly." Are the ghosts representative of that, of these forgotten characters and the impressions they left behind.

Great observations, Kari. It‘s as if she is insisting that everything is ephemeral except for what we make of it in the moment.


message 12: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 19, 2020 10:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: "I just finished and like you all, have a lot of unanswered questions and feelings about the book. I think Mandel just absolutely refuses to go easy on the reader, leaving us to fish around for the themes, for how we approach the characters"

That’s exactly it, Kari. As I was reading and when I finished the book, I knew I liked it, but also felt unsettled. Mandel leaves a lot up in the air so I didn't get a solid feeling of finality. The interesting thing is that I’m not frustrated, just adrift, which means I’m still thinking about the book. Remembering, reconsidering, trying to fit things together neatly (and they’re still refusing to be fit!).

I wondered so much that I immediately read Mandel’s Station Eleven because I’d read some of the characters appear in both books, specifically Leon, to whom I was very attached. I was also hoping to see Yvette because she was such a specific character with such a small role (although lately it’s occurred to me she’s there to represent all the foreign investors Alkaitis dragged into his scheme.)

Yvette isn’t in Station Eleven. Leon is background; he doesn’t appear in person. Miranda, the shipping executive, is a main character. The ghost fleet is floating off Malaysia. The story takes place in roughly the same time period as The Glass Hotel, but with entirely different settings and plot. Mandel has said it’s an alternate reality. What would have happened to people, including the repeating characters, if some event had set an entirely different reality in motion?

Which in turn reminds me of Miracle Creek in which the author overtly explored how each decision sets off another set of events. It’s like the Butterfly Effect. Each separate detail has its own outcome which in that book (and Mandel’s books) snowballed into a disaster. Over and over there’s this odd confluence of ideas in the books we read.

I liked Station Eleven very much and wasn’t surprised this time when some characters and plot lines are unresolved. Some details and small events are never explained. I wonder if this is Mandel’s style and all of her books leave the reader feeling unfinished?

Part of it, I think, is that her characters, even while not being sharply delineated, are nevertheless vivid. She doesn’t give a set paragraph telling us what a character looks like or is like. A gradual accretion of impressions give characters reality, even if it’s sometimes uncertain or fluid. Mandel has a gift for economical description. I never was conscious of her descriptive passages but had a solid mental image of both settings and characters. The strength of her characters made them live in my imagination and is making them hard to let go.

Mandel doesn’t take us fully into any of her characters’ thoughts or motivations, yet I felt I knew them (with the exception of Paul). She also doesn’t follow the usual convention of letting us know what happens in each character’s life throughout the time frame of the plot. Most books, even when they flit from one POV to another, still manage to let us know what happened while we were away from a particular character. Mandel doesn’t do that. What was Paul doing while we followed Vincent’s marriage? How did Vincent get from quitting the bar to being a chef on a ship?

I was intrigued by the characters, had affection for some, and felt I knew them as well as one knows many of the people in our lives. There were many I would have liked to know better and wanted their stories to continue beyond the book.

Evidently others feel the same. There are many reviewers of Station Eleven that hoped and expected there’d be a sequel. Mandel said no. That book leaves a lot more in the air than The Glass Hotel which has a few elements of finality: Alkaitis goes to prison; the hotel closes; Vincent dies. At least some plots have an end. But I’m still wondering what happened to Leon. How is Mirella supporting herself? How are the asset managers faring? How long will Walter be able to stay in the hotel? I’m still thinking about it. I’ll let you know if I have any revelations.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: ". Thanks for sharing, Jan. I listened to the RadioLab podcast earlier today and downloaded some of the episodes from Amazon."

Barbara, I’ve just realized that I said above that we discussed Madoff’s remorselessness. No, it was Alkaitis!

I’ve completely conflated man with character. I picture Madoff’s wife as a trophy wife, but I think in reality she was age-appropriate and they were married a long time. When the podcaster mentioned a small group who were his core investors I thought of Xavier.

It’s a bit odd that in a book that has such decidedly fictional elements as ghosts, Mandel drew so heavily on Madoff’s real story.


message 14: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 19, 2020 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: "We never quite found out what happened to Vincent's mom, but if her story parallels Vincent's, and Vincent's understanding is right--that she would never purposefully have left her--it seems likely she met with an accident too. I think the final line is interesting, when her mom looks up at Vincent calling for her, with surprise. Why surprise? Because Vincent "found" her? She didn't expect Vincent to come at that point, or at all?."

Kari, I noticed Vincent’s mother’s surprise too. At first I thought it was simply because she hadn’t realized Vincent had died, but the ghosts have the ability to go wherever they want, so wouldn’t Vincent’s mom have visited her from time to time? It’s just another tiny fragment of incident that may not have much meaning but leads to miles of speculation.

Maybe because it was ghost meeting ghost I doubted the resolution of mom’s story. In the afterlife Vincent could have her mother’s story be whatever suited her. On the other hand, what’s Vincent got to lose at this point? And it is a lovely resolution to realize her mother wouldn’t have purposely left her—the resolution of a universal childhood anxiety. I finally decided just to accept it.

This reminds me of my initial impressions of the book. At the very, very first when the book was proposed for a group read, I read the description—financial malfeasance, woman dies falling off a ship—and pictured a jet-setting thriller involving smuggling and cigarette boats. I don’t usually read those but decided to go along with the crowd. Glad I did!

Then, because the description makes the book seem mysterious, like you, Barbara, I kept expecting the usual elements and arc of a mystery. What happened to Vincent’s mother? Who did it? With all the little connections among characters I also thought there was a vast conspiracy. To accomplish what? I kept expecting other connections to satisfy some momentary theory I held, but that never happened.

Somewhere in Part 2 it occurred to me the mystery was taking an awfully long time to get started and I just decided to go along for the ride. My brain was broken from trying to recognize clues for I didn’t know what. This is certainly a book outside a lot of norms.

Kari also said: “ The ghosts in the story--Charlie Wu, Olivia, Vincent eventually--in light of the investment scheme, which relies on money that's not actually "there"--what does that say about these people and their presence? As Marie says, "We move through this world so lightly." Are the ghosts representative of that, of these forgotten characters and the impressions they left behind?”

At first I thought the ghosts appearing to Paul, then Alkaitis, were manifestations of guilt. Those two, so careless of others’ well-being, are perpetually reminded of what the world has lost.

Then, contrary to that theory, Olivia appears to Vincent. I found Vincent and Olivia so similar that I thought Olivia could be a sort of spirit mom to Vincent and was dropping in to see how she’s doing. Then Vincent died too quickly for that to happen.

Perhaps the ghosts exist to give more weight to what Marie sees as the lightness of our passing. By appearing after death in other’s lives they continue to make an impression and aren’t forgotten giving them, if not weight, at least a lasting presence.

But then Vincent’s time as a ghost seems to be aimed more at reconciliation and forgiveness. Not quite the same thing. Maybe it’s just that ghosts exist and they do whatever they want to do. 😊


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Kari wrote: “ I was shocked Annika didn't come back up in Paul's story, and that incident with Charlie Wu's death.”

I was surprised too and then expected to find her in Station Eleven but she wasn’t in it. Another character with a significant role who just appears for a handful of moments.


Barbara K | 414 comments OMalleycat wrote: "It’s a bit odd that in a book that has such decidedly fictional elements as ghosts, Mandel drew so heavily on Madoff’s real story."

Hmm.... Do you suppose that's part of her message? Contrasting solid reality with ghostly essence? Which is the more significant? To Madoff's/Alkaidis's investors the answer to that is pretty clear - or is it?

I've been enjoying the podcast which provide some insight into questions we've discussed. #3 covers the nuts and bolts of keeping up the facade, and #4 explores how Madoff duped the SEC for so many years. That one answers a question that has bothered me all along: How could it be that SEC examiners didn't ask about where the $65 billion in supposed assets were custodied? The answer is discouraging from those who are concerned about whether their tax dollars are used wisely.

I think the next section will be even more interesting. It seem that it will delve more deeply into other players in the securities industry who either left their own funds with him or funneled other people's money to him.


Barbara K | 414 comments OMalleycat wrote: "I kept expecting other connections to satisfy some momentary theory I held, but they never happened.

Somewhere in Part 2 it occurred to me the mystery was taking an awfully long time to get started and I just decided to go along for the ride. My brain was broken from trying to recognize clues for I didn’t know what. This is certainly a book outside a lot of norms."


Agreed. There are so many layers, so much opportunity for speculation and contemplation. Like you, I was expecting a sophisticated thriller, but this is so much more than that.


message 18: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 20, 2020 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: “I've been enjoying the podcast which provide some insight into questions we've discussed. #3 covers the nuts and bolts of keeping up the facade, and #4 explores how Madoff duped the SEC for so many years. That one answers a question. . ."

So far I’ve only listened to eps 1 and 2. I’ve been fascinated to listen to Madoff himself. He’s so unruffled talking to the reporter, an affable, chummy guy. You can see how easily persuasive he must have been with investors, SEC investigators, anyone who had doubts. The ultimate salesman/con man.

I’m eager to get to parts involving the asset managers who interest me even more than Madoff. How did he get people to drink so deeply of the Koolaid? He himself says in one of the interviews that he knew he’d end in prison; no one could sustain the ruse, with the weight of all that money, forever. Surely the asset managers knew too. Or was it as Oskar described: knowing, but not knowing.

Barbara, I’ve been meaning to ask you about a niggling point. When Walter called the asset trustee to propose himself for hotel-keeper, he heard that the asset manager, Harvey, Was in the trustee’s office. What would Harvey’s role have been there? Would he have been directing the trustee to Alkaitis’ assets, disclosing any caches? It’s a tiny detail but Mandel made a point of it. Is it just to demonstrate what a willing rat Harvey was?


Barbara K | 414 comments OMalleycat wrote: "I’m eager to get to parts involving the asset managers who interest me even more than Madoff. How did he get people to drink so deeply of the Koolaid? He himself says in one of the interviews that he knew he’d end in prison; no one could sustain the ruse, with the weight of all that money, forever. Surely the asset managers knew too. Or was it as Oskar described: knowing, but not knowing."

After listening to the podcast, I’d say that the asset managers knew there was something fishy going on, but had no idea of the scope. Personally, if I had reaped rewards on the scale they did I think I would have assumed it had to be a seriously large enterprise, but then again, these people don’t seem to have been overly endowed with either intelligence or a sense ethics.

When Walter called the asset trustee to propose himself for hotel-keeper, he heard that the asset manager, Harvey, Was in the trustee’s office. What would Harvey’s role have been there? Would he have been directing the trustee to Alkaitis’ assets, disclosing any caches? It’s a tiny detail but Mandel made a point of it. Is it just to demonstrate what a willing rat Harvey was?

Harvey appears to be a stand-in for Frank Depasquale, Madoff’s long-time lieutenant and the first to turn on him. I’d guess that his “cameo” in this scene is designed to emphasize that he was an ongoing source of information about the nutshell and bolts of the operation, as well as some of the key players.

You will enjoy parts 3-6 of the podcast.


message 20: by Russ (last edited Jun 22, 2020 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Russ | 330 comments OMalleycat wrote: "Then, because the description makes the book seem mysterious, like you, Barbara, I kept expecting the usual elements and arc of a mystery..."

I interpreted the main mystery to be who wrote on the hotel's glass. Not quite the high stakes of a typical murder mystery! Maybe more of an "upmarket thriller."


message 21: by Kari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kari | 149 comments Russ wrote: "I interpreted the main mystery to be who wrote on the hotel's glass

There were so many mysteries that I didn't think about what might be seen as the "main one" but you're right in that, in the traditional sense, this is what gets resolved--what we get the "playback" for. But we also had Vincent's death resolved in much that way, as well. Personally, for me, the lingering mysteries were much more interesting. I am dying for opinions on what happened to Vincent's mother. "Met with an accident" seems like the best bet, especially considering Vincent dies accidentally as well, but as Jan said, maybe that's just what Vincent wants to believe.


message 22: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 22, 2020 08:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Russ wrote: “ I interpreted the main mystery to be who wrote on the hotel's glass. Not quite the high stakes of a typical murder mystery!"

As Kari says, that’s the one that got resolved.

From Chapter 1, where Vincent falls off the boat, I thought she was a murder victim. From the book description I assumed it was some kind of financial scam gone wrong. I waited for at least half the book for that to develop. But it didn’t!

I also thought Vincent’s mother’s death was part of the mystery and speculated that in some zig-zag way Paul had something to do with it—the way he didn’t want to look at the water when he and Vincent are ferrying home from school.

And on top of that, I thought there was a mystery in Leon Prevant’s reaction to the hotel graffiti. He was terribly upset and had a brief memory of a boy named Rob who will never be older than 16. Well, it’s a mystery all right but not only unresolved, never referred to again! I read Station Eleven hoping to find out more about it. But no.

I think a good part of my reason for enjoying this book is that it didn’t follow my expectations for a mystery. And Mandel dared to introduce side mysteries with no solution, and which consequently I still turn over and over in my mind.


message 23: by Kari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kari | 149 comments I forgot all about Rob!! Oh jeez! More things to keep me up tonight thinking about!


Barbara K | 414 comments Re Vincent’s mother - until near the end I harbored this notion that she wasn’t murdered or the victim of an accident, but that somehow she faked her death to escape the drudgery of her life. And that she would re-emerge from some unexpected angle.


OMalleycat | 1448 comments Barbara wrote: "Re Vincent’s mother - until near the end I harbored this notion that she wasn’t murdered or the victim of an accident, but that somehow she faked her death to escape the drudgery of her life..."

At first I also thought she might have voluntarily escaped/disappeared or sometimes thought, given my vast conspiracy notions, that she was kidnapped. But when Vincent started seeing her ghost I figured she was gone.

Kari, when we were talking about mom’s ghost’s “surprise” on seeing Vincent at the end, I’d forgotten about Vincent spotting her a couple of times. To me that makes it even stranger that she was surprised. It’s also interesting that, as I recall, Vincent only starts seeing mom’s ghost on the day that the Ponzi crashes. Was the ghost there checking in on Vincent or maybe lending a kind of support? Vincent doesn’t seem comforted, only confused.


message 26: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments Jan: echoing Barbara - your summaries are absolutely brilliant! Thank you!
The summary of Mandel's amazing chapter sixteen broke my heart all over again and all of your comments here added dimension to a complex and thoughtful book.
Ghosts, memories, choices and paths that lead to treachery, cruelty and deceit and the unfathomable willingness of a man like Alkaitis to defraud and ruin so many people.

Paul is still a mystery, could he have seen ghosts before Charlie Wu? I don't know that I want to be charitable to Paul.

Olivia gave us a face and a person to view as a victim of the terrible scheme. I wanted Olivia to have more story but understand why she appeared as she did.

The terrible choice that Leon was given by Saparelli to look the other way when Saparelli destroyed his notes on Geoffrey Bell's past violence (as possible evidence of culpability in Vincent's death), was on one hand patently unfair and likely Leon won't get over the guilt. Yet on the other hand, I felt it telling that it allowed Geoffrey, who was not guilty, to move on and leave the sea as he planned, and to grieve Vincent without an investigation to follow him. Bad and good, blurred reality.

What a book!


message 27: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14410 comments This ESPN story might seem unusual to add to the comments on The Glass Hotel, but here we find Bernie Madoff in the news for his apparent suggestion the Mets invest the $5.9 million they owed this player instead of just paying Bobby Bonilla off. Crazy!!
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/2...


message 28: by Kari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kari | 149 comments Ann wrote: "This ESPN story might seem unusual to add to the comments on The Glass Hotel, but here we find Bernie Madoff in the news for his apparent suggestion the Mets invest the $5.9 million they owed this ..."

Wow! So weird how we're seeing this Madoff stuff everywhere now. At least someone came out better for it. Happy Bobby Bonilla day, indeed.


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