THE protagonist in this novel is the glass room, through which pass a procession of human beings. The plot of Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room is located in the World War II and just after it. The house that has the glass room, personal property and home of a couple passes hands from them to the Nazis and then the Russians and the Czech government.
And as each of them stand in the glass room, the author builds his characters, each reacting in his individualistic way to a room that signifies openness, lack of privacy and yet acutely intimate.
Under the Nazis, it is turned into a human lab, where they try and work out the physical features of Jews as distinguished from the rest of the human beings, where prisoners are stripped naked and made to undergo tests, where skull measurements are taken and records kept of.
Viktor and Liesel are newly married and Viktor, a Jew and owner of a big automobile industry is eager to build a unique home. Architect Rainer builds this home for them in multi levels, top down. The most attractive aspect of the house is the glass room that overlooks the lawns. The house attracts people. They have two children while living in the house. When the Nazis start their hate campaign against Jews, Viktor leaves the country well in time for Switzerland and from there to the US.
But all is not rosy in the domestic front. He develops relations with a woman Kata while in Vienna on business and later discovers she is a Jew and as providence would have it, she comes to his home for protection. Liesel takes an immediate liking to her and makes her the nanny of her children. But she eventually discovers the affair between her and Viktor and takes it rather passively.
While on way to the US, Kata and her daughter are detained and Viktor and family move on. The story then abruptly comes to the present, when Liesel is revising her home. Blinded with age and supported by her daughter. She catches up with time and the people whom she left behind.
A subtle and beautiful novel that explores relationships and narrates the story without jerks. A very pleasant read. -DVN
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