The Glass Hotel: Emily St. John Mandel's much anticipated novel is haunting and well-timed

Emily St. John Mandel's last novel, Station Eleven, was an award-winning dystopian blockbuster. Now she's back with The Glass Hotel, about a financial collapse. But should you read it? Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne lets us know.

'It's a story about bad choices and imagining a life that could have been,' says Becky Toyne

The Glass Hotel is a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. (HarperCollins, Sarah Shatz)

If you're struggling to find a good book to read while in quarantine, Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne has a suggestion for you: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.

"It's a highly, highly anticipated novel by a Canadian author," she said.

The Glass Hotel, which will be available on March 24, is Mandel's fifth published novel and her first since Station Eleven, her critically-acclaimed, award-nominated book set in a post-apocalyptic world. 

"[Station Eleven] was one of those books that did a really good job of straddling the literary and the commercial, and appealing to people who read voraciously and people who maybe only read a couple of books a year," she said. 

This led to much anticipation surrounding the release of Mandel's newest book, and while it's difficult for any author to follow up a best-seller, Toyne says that The Glass Hotel does that well.

It's a story about deceit and lies and lying to yourself.- Becky Toyne,

"I think she's done a brilliant job in The Glass Hotel, which is a completely different book," she said. "But, it has a lot of interesting through lines thematically that will really appeal to the readers of Station Eleven."

From ghost story to the financial crisis

The novel covers many bases, from being a ghost story and fairy tale to being a suspense story and a modern historical novel about the 2008 financial crisis. 

At its core though, The Glass Hotel follows a Ponzi scheme collapse and "this web of characters who all somehow become connected to one another," explained Toyne.

"It's a story about deceit and lies and lying to yourself," she said. "And it's a story about bad choices and imagining a life that could have been if things had been different."

And like Station Eleven and other great fiction novels, Toyne says The Glass Hotel does an extremely good job allowing the reader to "lose yourself in another world" while "enhancing your understanding and your empathy" for the world that you live in and the people you interact with.

No paper-thin villains

"Emily St. John Mandel does a really good job, I thought, of making every character very human," Toyne said. 

This also applies to the character Jonathan Alkaitis, a New York financier that Toyne compares to former market maker Bernie Madoff

Although readers will "hate the Bernie Madoff character and the effect that his decisions have on all of the other people in the novel," Toyne praised Mandel for her ability to humanize his decisions and motives.

In one section of the book, Alkaitis is shown as a young boy and the reader "understands some of the things that might have become motivation in his life for him turning out the way he did."

In another section, he is in prison, "consumed by these thoughts of his counter life and haunted by the ghosts of the decisions that he's made."

All of this makes his motivations more believable.

Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Interview produced by Laurie Allan.

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