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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Glass Room

The Glass Room - Simon Mawer Set in the period before, during and after the Second World War, The Glass Room tells the story of an ultra-modernist house built by wealthy Czech couple, the Landauers. Herr Landauer owned a company that manufactured cars but since he was Jewish, his comfortable bourgeois life was about to be shattered by the accession of Adolf Hitler.

The Landauers were fortunate enough to be able to escape Czechoslovakia, fleeing first to Switzerland and later to America. Meanwhile a succession of owners took over the house. First it became a laboratory for Nazi scientists determined to find a specifically Jewish physiological marker, then a temporary camp for Red Army soldiers, a gymnasium for disabled children and finally a museum.

It's an impressively researched and eminently cultured piece of writing but the use of the house as a structural focus for the narrative does lead to a certain degree of contrivance. Characters come and go, especially towards the end of the book and one feels at times that relationships are manufactured to fit the overall design.

Nevertheless, I found this to be an intelligent and haunting work that powerfully conveys a society being overwhelmed by the tide of history .