I have to be honest, when I started to read the book The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, I was unsure. The only thing I knew about it was that it was somehow linked to the 2008 financial crisis, and that’s not normally the type of book I’m drawn to, BUT I LOVED her last book Station Eleven SO MUCH. I will read anything this woman writes.
So, I’m going to tell you what I wish I knew when I began this story: it’s all worth it! It all comes together and makes sense in the most wonderful of ways. At the beginning of the book, you are introduced to numerous characters, move through different time periods and I felt like I really had no idea what this book was about and which of these people were important – was I going to forget something? No need to worry.
Mandel creates a vast array of characters who perpetrate the Ponzi scheme, those connected to those running it, as well as the victims. Getting all the points of view, from characters you feel you know gives a greater understanding of the depth and horror of what someone like Bernie Madoff pulled off for so long. The author admits the story was based on the scam he ran.
I was very fortunate not to have lost money during the financial collapse in 2008, but after reading this book you can see how this truly impacted people: rightly with prison sentences, the victims’ loss of savings, and what happens next for everyone. I especially like that we get the complete stories for the main characters. The author does not leave you wondering, and this is so appreciated!!
The book is told in such a way that you get a complete picture of the scheme. It makes it far more relatable than anything I’ve read on the topic. Yes, it is sad when people lose all their money but I found the book far more interesting than sad. It is a story of how humans respond to a crisis – whether they are the creator or the victim.
Mandel’s previous book, Station Eleven, was about a pandemic so I don’t recommend reading right now. The pandemic plays the backdrop to the human relationships and reactions to the situation – while this book focuses on a financial crash – it does the same thing, you get to know the people. By creating such strong, interesting and vastly different characters the reader feels invested and, possibly, see characteristics of themselves on the page.
I really can’t say much more without ruining the book. But reading along as Mandel carefully ties the intricate pieces together, while giving answers to everything was truly astounding. One reviewer from Booklist said it was a “spider web of a story,” and this is such an accurate description.
Once the threads of the story begin to come together, it is hard to put down this clever, captivating, and artfully put together book. I honestly felt like clapping when I finished this novel!