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Disciplined, deeply tender, and without self-indulgence

The Glass Room is about a real house,about real history, spans just over 60 years (1929-1990) and documents some of the events that happened in Czechoslovakia in that time, a troubled, short lived country, created from the dissolution of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Czechoslovakia was a proud, independent, liberal democracy from 1918-1938; the German invasion, later followed by Soviet Occupation, meant that her peoples experienced shattering and tragic events.

Mawer sensitively and imaginatively charts those times through the history of a partly fictionalised group of people who commissioned, designed and built, lived in or worked in the house over that 70 year period

Ludwig_Mies_van_der_RoheThe real glass house and the real people who fuelled Mawer’s creative telling of this story was the Villa Tugendhat in Brno designed by Mies van der Roheelev_tugendhat_fr-the-glass-room

Just like the seemingly impossible house itself, with its audacious materials, structures and concepts, Mawer’s book seethes with the energy of contradictions, beautifully held and contained. There are violent passions, ethical conflicts, tragic loss, betrayals, deep friendships and loves, all thrown up and borne along by the inevitable march of the history of nations.

Mawer skilfully avoids polemic and an intrusive voice. He doesn’t overwhelm the Simon Mawerreader with obvious poetic or literary style; the twisting strands of story unfold and the reader has the sense of looking, as if through that great glass wall, into the room of time and space.

I wept reading this book – but without any sense of being ‘manipulated’ to do so, by the writer. He USES his skills rather than displays them.

I’m just a little astonished that I somehow missed this extraordinary writer until this, his eigthth book. While many, many lesser writers are hyped up to the heavens, perhaps the often ill-awarded superlatives has meant that when superlatives may be deserved (as here) they are no longer noticed.
The Glass Room