Tuesday, 1 January 2013

My reading year ended on a high note with The Glass Room, by Simon Mawer, which was Cornflower's book group choice for November. I began this in the post-Christmas lull and finished it only an hour into 2013. (Far too wet and horrible a night to be out partying.)
The Glass Room is a work of fiction but the spectacular Modernist house in the novel is based on Mies van der Rohe's Villa Tugendhat in Brno in what is now the Czech republic.

As far as the story goes, the house was commissioned (as indeed it was in real life) by a wealthy Jewish industrialist and his wife. The first half of the book relates their complicated lives and infidelities up to the point where they flee to exile in Switzerland just before the outbreak of war.
There was something mesmerising about their convoluted love affairs and tangled emotions set against the clean, white lines of the house. But from the mid-point of the novel, my interest waned as it galloped on ...  through the war years, when the fictional house was a Nazi laboratory, into the Communist era when it became a physiotherapy dance studio for children with polio, until finally after the fall of Communism, it becomes a museum. Too many coincidences all the way through and too pat an ending.

So what kept me so gripped? It was the house itself, so beautifully described that it seemed to live and breathe. It was only after I finished the book that I took this virtual tour and walked down the stairs to find it was exactly as I had imagined it ... even the onyx wall that glows in the sunset. It felt almost like trespassing.

Happy New Year to you all and a big thank you to everyone who has commented during the year. It makes my day when I hear from friends near and far.


Cornflower said...

I am glad you enjoyed it, Mary, and I agree that the house itself is the magnetic centre of the book. Happy new year!

mary said...

It made me long to visit the house, Karen. Happy new year - I'm looking forward to your reviews for 2013!