The Glass Room, Simon Mawer
Monday, October 23, 2017
I met Simon Mawer at the Boston Book Festival in 2010. He had just finished speaking on a panel about “sense of place” in literature when I introduced myself. My interest had been piqued by his comments, and particularly by his reading of the opening section of The Glass Room, and I was keen to find out where the real glass room was located, the one on which he based the fictionalized one. He had already said it was in the Czech Republic, and it just so happened I was leaving for the CR in a few days. Mawer graciously shared his inspiration with me – the Tugendhat Villa in Brno, Czech Republic, a seminal masterpiece by Mies van der Rohe – and two weeks later I was in Brno, immersed in the novel. He never names the city in the book, but Mawer is masterful in placing the reader there. For instance, he describes the park where the house with the glass room was situated, and the real park is just like that. He describes the shadow cast by the looming castle, and there’s no doubt it’s the Spilberk Castle. And he gives us characters who are ripped from their comfortable life and forced to confront the growing Nazi menace, the war and the holocaust, all very much like the real people from that part of the world whom I know. A fabulous novel, deeply connected to place and time.