The glass room is the centerpiece of a starkly modern “machine for living” house built by the equally modern Landauers, a young, progressive couple who marry in the heady days of the new democracy of Czechoslovakia. The sleek, striking building expresses their hopes and personalities and the drive to be “new.” But old forces are still at work on the Continent. No matter how much the tranquil, aqueous, other-worldly glass room affects the people who come and go in it over 70 years, the outside intrudes, sometimes violently.
The Glass Room was inspired by a villa built in the city of Brno by Mies Van der Rohe (the novel’s Liesl chair is the iconic uber-Bauhaus seat you’ve seen everywhere). To inhabit the novel, Mawrer has created rich characters with satisfyingly messy love lives (Hana, vivacious, intelligent, lascivious, is my favorite), desperate choices, and complicated webs of relationships. The Glass Room gives the reader an intimate lens through which to view a sweep of history which is familiar in its outline, but becomes intensely personal and immediate; the best kind of historical fiction, and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2009.