This literary work begins with an older woman returning to what had once been her home. The reader doesn't know why she had to leave or what had been so special about it until getting further into the story. In some ways, the protagonist in this story is the Glass Room, which, as it turns out, actually exists, which is what inspired the author to write this novel.
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It is the 1920s in Czechoslovakia, and newlywed Viktor desires what is new and contemporary in the way of a house for him and his wife. He hires an architect, Rainer von Abt, to build him a home that represents all that is fresh and unique. What captured me about this very story is when the architect makes a promise to Viktor, who is Jewish and his wife, Liesel, who is a Gentile, saying, "I will design you a life. Not a mere house to live in, but a whole way of life." What follows is how this way of life is soon destroyed by the Czech government.
At first, author Simon Mawer hints at how the newlyweds' lives are going to drastically change. They get the house they wanted even though Viktor is starting to see the signs of war and upheaval while his wife prefers to read the fashion magazines much to Viktor's dismay. Initially, guests are amazed by this home with its glass room. It is the place for entertainment, but then, slowly, or quickly, depending on one's point of view, happenings occur that turn dreams into a very real nightmare. The couple's view from this glass room provided the means to see hate and the lack of tolerance encroaching upon them, and eventually going beyond that visible barrier and forcing them, just as their neighbors were forced, from their home. What had once been a place for culture was now a place for experimentation on the country's citizens. The reader then realizes why the woman who returned to this glass room at the beginning of this novel found the memories to be sad.
As an aside, Fritz and Greta Tugendhat were the actual homeowners of this house, which was considered a work of art by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and eventually became a public museum.
Best part of story, including ending:
It shows how some people choose to ignore government takeover and the glass room was symbolic in providing such a view while the wife chose to ignore it.
Best scene in story:
When Viktor and Liesel entertain. There are hints of what is to come, but the culture seems to keep things at bay for awhile.
Opinion about the main character:
The Glass Room seemed to be the protagonist and I liked what it represented and the fact that it was based on an actual glass room.