Books·Canadian

The Glass Hotel

A novel by Emily St. John Mandel.

Emily St. John Mandel

Vincent is a 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, 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. (From HarperCollins)

The Glass Hotel was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist.

Emily St. John Mandel is a New York-based Canadian writer. Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 2015 Toronto Book Award. 

Giller Prize jury citation: "A boldly lyrical tale echoing the deceit and ruin of the 2008 financial crisis, The Glass Hotel brings together two restless siblings and a multi-billion-dollar investor as they each negotiate ambition, secrets, and loss within the kingdom of money. Bridging the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the shops and towers of Manhattan, and the netherworld of open waters, the novel commands a broad array of characters and a plot of kaleidoscopic intricacy.  Here, in her eagerly anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel turns her gifted attention to the mirages of now, and to the truth that we are haunted, always, by the lives of others."

From the book

Leon had survived two mergers and a reorganization, but when he heard the first whispers of this latest restructuring, he was struck by a certainty so strong that it felt like true knowledge: he was going to lose his job. He was fifty-eight years old. He was senior enough to be expensive, and close enough to retirement to be let go without weighing too heavily on anyone's conscience. There was no part of his job that couldn't be performed by younger executives who made less money than he did. Since hearing of the merger he'd lived whole hours without thinking about it, but the nights were harder than the days. He and Marie had just bought a house in South Florida, which they planned to rent out until he retired, with the idea of eventually fleeing New York winters and New York taxes. This seemed to him to be a new beginning, but they'd spent more money on the house than they'd meant to, he had never been very good at saving, and he was aware that he had much less in his retirement accounts than he should. It was six-thirty in the morning before he fell into a fitful sleep.


From The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel ©2020 Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Why Emily St. John Mandel wrote The Glass Hotel

"What fascinated me further was the mass delusion at play among the investors. There's a popular misconception that Madoff investors were all billionaires — people who had it coming or had too much money to start out with. We bring our own biases to conversations about money. But a lot of people who lost everything were very ordinary middle class people, many of whom didn't even realize they were invested with Madoff.

What fascinated me further was the mass delusion at play among the investors.- Emily St. John Mandel

"I actually know someone who was an investor. He was one of the very luckiest ones, in that it was not catastrophic for him when the fund collapsed. He would get these statements in the mail and they never made any sense. He'd go over them, trying to figure out what his numbers were coming from. It never made sense but the returns were so good.

"It would have been everyone's experience. Of course the numbers never made sense — there were never any investments taking place. So I was fascinated by that."

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St John Mandel on The Glass Hotel, her follow-up to her breakout novel Station Eleven. 16:03
The author of "Station Eleven" on her bestselling debut novel, and why post-apocalyptic fiction is all the rage. (Broadcast date: May 11, 2015) 17:37

Other books by Emily St. John Mandel

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