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The Glass Room    by Simon Mawer order for
Glass Room
by Simon Mawer
Order:  USA  Can
Other Press, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Simon Mawer writes beautifully about a proud family caught in the tragic events in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and 40s. The Landauer newlyweds ask a renowned architect to build them a house that represents modernity, and they soon recognize that he has built them a masterpiece, the jewel of which is a luminous glass room.

This room becomes the center of the family's life until they must leave. The house falls into the hands of the Germans, who use it for various purposes until the area is bombed, after which the Soviets come in, and it becomes a gymnasium for children who are polio victims. In each period people live an important part of their lives in the glass room.

Mawer's evanescent writing brings with it some difficulties. We see only the surface of the characters, and it is never possible to find out who they really are, especially Viktor, Liesel and Kata. Even the war-time events are veiled, and the stories of the successive inhabitants of the house fragmentary. Perhaps this is a metaphor for those dark times, where only the changing quality of light in the glass room can endure, while the people are just fading apparitions. There is much to ponder here.

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