cover image The Glass Room

The Glass Room

Simon Mawer. Other Press, $14.95 (405pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-396-5

The latest from novelist Mawer (The Fall) begins with great promise, as Jewish newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer meet with architect Rainier von Abt, not just an architect but ""a poet...of light and space and form,"" who builds their dream home, a ""modern house...adapted to the future rather than the past, to the openness of modern living."" World events, however, are about to overtake 1930s Czechoslovakia. Viktor, like most in the community, dismisses rumors of impending pogroms-""The only people who hold the German economy together are the Jews""-but once the signs of Nazi occupation become impossible to ignore, the Landauers must abandon their beloved home. In a bizarre twist of fate, however, Liesel insists on rescuing single mother Katra, unaware that Katra is Viktor's new mistress. As the world spins into chaos, the highly symbolic Landauer house is the only constant; though it shifts identities more than once, the house remains ""ageless,"" a place ""that defines the very existence of time."" Mawer's writing and characters are rich, but his twisty plot depends too often on unbelievable coincidences, especially in the conclusion.