The Glass Hotel

Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel
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The Glass Hotel

Emily St. John Mandel

The extraordinary novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Station Eleven

Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.‘ Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship.

Weaving together the lives of these characters, Emily St John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.


Paul is a young recovering drug addict, struggling through a degree in finance he couldn’t care less about. Having lost the trust of his widowed mother, his hopes of studying musical composition are crushed when he’s sent to college in Toronto study a ‘practical’ career. But long-lived habits are hard to break, and his natural attraction to badly made choices soon plunges him into troubled waters. His only option? To run away from the well-structured life he never wanted, and seek shelter at his sister Vincent’s apartment in New York.

As the story moves between the busy metropolis and the quietness of the remote wilderness, the lives of ordinary strangers touch each other through a series of chance meetings, mundane coincidences and unconscious desires. Some destinies are changed forever as the certainty of their expectations vanish into a world they never thought could become their reality. In this story, we meet those who are left staring into the void of uncertainty, grappling to find their new place in a society that has left them behind. We also meet those who sleepwalk across a fine line of casual immorality and social conditioning, and are left to confront the ghosts of their guilt.

Emily St. John Mandel’s previous novel was the widely acclaimed Station Eleven, which won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award in 2015. The Glass Hotel is the author’s fifth novel and a gentle study of the ordinariness of greed and corruption, but also of the quiet tenacity and valour of those who pursue a love that endures. Her prose is quiet and observant, like the video-art reflections made by the narrator of the story, the beautiful Vincent. Her style is reminiscent of the meditative musings of an existentialist novel, which slowly uncovers a complex portrait of the tragedy of humankind.

Eva Sandoval works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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