The Glass Hotel: A novel
by Emily St. John Mandel
Hardcover- $24.26

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven ("Ingenious." - The New York Times), an exhilarating novel set at the glittering ...

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  "A bit confusing, but a great creative author." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 04/06/20

The Glass Hotel, Jill St., Emily St. John Mandel, author, Dylan Moore, narrator

The first words of import in the book are, “begin at the end”. It is December 2018. Someone is falling over the side of a ship. Then, suddenly, the narrative reveals an incident when that person was 13 and living in Caiette. The narrative continues to move to different points in time, i.e., 1994, 1999, 2005, etc. Many characters are introduced. They disappear and reappear throughout the book, and sometimes, it is hard to remember in what context they first showed up.

As the story develops, through the experiences and memories of the various characters it begins to reveal itself. Each of the major characters seems fatally flawed. Each seems to have a price at which they could be bought and made willing to push the envelope of their lives into gray areas. The main character, Vincent, named for the Edna Vincent Millay, is easily persuaded to become involved with Jonathan Alkaitis, a man of great wealth. She meets him one night, when she is working as a bartender. After they get to know each other, he offers her a fairytale life in what she calls the “kingdom of money”. It is an offer she cannot refuse.

Jonathan and Vincent pretend to be married because he believes that in his profession, he runs an investment firm, his investors would not look kindly on their “arrangement”. They might not think he was trustworthy if she was just his mistress. There are more than three decades separating them, and Vincent is actually five years younger than Jonathan’s daughter, Claire. However, Vincent is a perfect “companion” for him. She is well liked, easily understands his cues and makes excellent conversation with his clients. She is impeccably decked out at all times via the use of a credit card that he has given to her. Together, they live extravagantly, travel widely and enjoy their luxurious life until the day it all comes apart.

When the world comes crashing down because of Jonathan’s fall from grace, Vincent alters her outlook on life. She no longer wants to impress people with her appearance. No longer perfectly coifed and made up, she changes her hairstyle, removes her make-up, and becomes less noticeable. Ultimately she takes a job working as an assistant chef on the ship, Neptune Cumberland, where she remains for almost a decade. She works on board for 9 months, and then she is off for three, at which time she travels. She develops a very close relationship with another shipmate, Geoffrey Bell, and seems content, until the night she inexplicably goes missing. There were no witnesses to her disappearance, but she is never seen again.

Jonathan Alkaitis was arrested for conducting a ponzi scheme. Operating his legitimate business on one floor and his fraudulent investment firm on another, he duped his investors in a way eerily similar to the real life ponzi scheme criminal, Bernie Madoff. In the end, Alkaitis swindled his investors by robbing Peter to pay Paul as he provided some influential investors the return on their money that they demanded, at the expense of the others who became his victims. Some people lost their entire life savings because of him. Lives were destroyed. People went to prison.

The book is entertaining once the pieces begin to fall into place, but a good deal of the time it did feel confusing because it bounced around so much. Still, it was a good read, though perhaps it would have been better in print. When the book ends, there are no more loose ends.

Each character dreams of a life that is not fulfilled or realized. Their own choices, however, were responsible for the way their lives played out. Some opportunities came their way that could randomly change the course of their lives, but their would be consequences for those choices. I wondered, at the end, do all of us have a price at which we can be bought? Are most of us willing to sell our souls to the devil if we get the right offer? With the mention of the Swine Flu and the term pandemic, and with the theme of the investment fraud, so reminiscent of the real life incident of Bernie Madoff, the book propels itself back into the present time with a bang and becomes very relevant.

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Good book.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 12/30/20

  "a ghost story? maybe" by Books&Banter (see profile) 01/20/21

Reading summaries for this book had me expecting a ghost story or a re-telling of Bernie Madoff. It was neither although it contained elements of both. This is not a ghost story in the normal way and that was just one of the factors that had me racing thru this book. Highly recommended for book clubs so you can discuss after because there will be LOTS to discuss. I saw this story being more about the many paths we chose in our life and the utter capriciousness of it all. The ghosts added to this theme and I was happily flipping pages, thinking they were manifestations of a character's guilt until the end when Vincent made me question my safe assumption. I loved how the characters, even the obviously flawed ones, were presented to us with empathy. I enjoyed how the author made me question not only the characters but myself. This book will leave an impact.

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  "Great Book Once You Get Used to the Writing Style" by ebach (see profile) 08/23/21

In a comparison of Emily St. John Mandel's previous book,STATION ELEVEN, with THE GLASS HOTEL, the subject matter and the type of story differ but her writing style is the same. Although both books are good, I had to read a few chapters of them before I got used to her style. It came across at first as haphazard.

Right from the initial chapter of THE GLASS HOTEL, you know that Vincent (female) falls overboard and is drowning. Most of the rest of the book is flashback, starting when Vincent is 12 years old. It seems at first that her half-brother Paul will play a major role in her story. He is a drug addict/musician who needs her when she is in her early 20s. They work at the same hotel, but then he mostly disappears until much later.

Vincent is a bartender at the hotel. That's where she meets Jonathan, the owner of the hotel and a financial manager. Of course, he's wealthy, and gorgeous Vincent becomes his pretend wife. In the 3 years they are together, she never knows how he really comes by his wealth. She doesn't know because she doesn't want to know.

Now we also see how the lives of some of Jonathan's clients are changed when his secret is revealed. And we also see what happens to several of his employees who have been in on the scheme.

Obviously, Vincent drowns, and now we see how that comes about. She is working as a cook on a ship, where she went to escape land and the people she didn't want to see. Was her death accidental, or was she pushed?

You should know that this book has a lot of characters to keep track of. Pay attention to each, even those who don't seem to matter; their names will come up later. I find it easiest to mark each name with highlighter the first time it appears. That way I can more easily leaf back to find the name if I need a reminder of who is who. Unfortunately, my copy of THE GLASS HOTEL was a library book, and I only mark in books I own.

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