Disappointing, I thought,even though a very well known author praised it. I'm awful at visualizing, and could never "get" the house in my head! The story is epic, but I got tired of Mr. Landauer's peripatetic sex life and the incredible coincidence of Kata's appearance at their home in Czechoslovakia after the Anschluss was really beyond belief. Other plot devices also skirted credibility.
Inanimate objects as characters are unusual in fiction for a good reason: they rarely breathe or move around without expending more literary effort than readers find enjoyable. In the category of architectural persona I think Emma Donoghue’s Room did a creditable job of bringomg her structure to life. Simon Mawer, however, created what amounts to a distraction with his Landauer House and its Glass Room. He had interesting stories to tell about his human characters, but the building too often overshadowed them. As a motif, the historical background of a unique home, might have enhanced their stories, might have brought their shapes into focus. For me, at least, it just didn’t work the other way around. I did want to care about the fate of Liesel and Victor and Hana and the rest. About the house—not so much, the grandiose prose notwithstanding.
Booker nominee. This is the story of a modern house in the 1920s and the people who lived there. The coincidences are not convincing, but it is a very readable story.
This is a novel about two gentile women married to wealthy Jewish men in Czechoslovakia during the WWII era. The focus is on the gentile spouses; the Jewish people are really given short shrift. The book also has other problems:
1. Racism: One character uses the n word. No response is made by any other character to this comment. Black people are never mentioned again in the book so this statement isn't leading up to the issue of prejudice against black people. It is simply gratuitous racism.
2. Sexism: Sexism permeates the book. The male author made virtually all the women into unfaithful wives and/or prostitutes. They sell themselves for money and then, unbelievably, their customers fall in love with them. Only one of the main characters, Liesel, is allowed to be mostly honest and good. Her best friend, Hana, another main character, has sex with a wide variety of men, despite being married. When one partner, a Nazi, finds out that she's pregnant by him, he hits her and then rapes her. The lengthy description of the anal rape is so detailed that it seems almost pornographic. Another character is afraid of being raped by soldiers and her brother responds by saying, in essence, she should be so lucky. Oh yeah, and Liesel is so understanding of her husband's passionate attachment to a prostitute that she allows the woman and her child to join the family in a sort of polygamous household. Is this all some sexist man's favorite fantasy or what?
3. Inconsistent quality: a) The accidental meetings, instant sparks of desire and amazing coincidences that usually characterize romance novels are overly abundant in this book. b) The architecture discussion is initially interesting but it becomes redundant. c) The characters are insufficiently developed and their behavior and relationships are really not explained. Major events are told after the fact rather than allowing the reader to actually read the details of what happened. There are better WWII novels than this one.
An affluent forward-thinking couple in Czechoslovakia builds a house designed by an up-and-coming modernist architect in the 1920s. For ten years the house centers their lives and loves. Then they must flee the Nazis. Others come to the building, now in Soviet times seen as merely utilitarian, but it still touches all who enter. The author brings the people and their lives full circle.
Chance and circumstance?what part they have in lives?and history. A beautiful book on its own, made even more poignant as it parallels the lives of a real house and real people, that of Villa Tugendhat, designed by Mies van der Rohe, in Brno in the Czech Republic.
I like books with a house at the centre. I usually find them wonderful, a story revolving around a fixed point. This particular house offered an obvious metaphor for the story, and was lovingly described as an object as well as a symbol of larger things.
However, perhaps it was my mood, or my state of mind, but I couldn't get into this book. I tried, patiently reading a few pages every day, then skimming a little and trying really hard to get the point. I felt that I was missing something, obviously, as I was not caught up in the tale at all.
This is one of those books that seeps into your mind, and makes you resent anything and anyone that takes you away from reading it!
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