My book group just finished reading The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. We had a great discussion about this book, which was short-listed for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
It’s about a Czechoslovakian couple and their magnificently modernistic house of steel, glass and onyx. In hopeful, forward-thinking, very early 1930s Europe (another war like the last war surely would be impossible), the house, shining on its hill, seems to engender the idealism of its time.
The Landauer House, which slips from hand to hand, from Czech to Nazi to Soviet and finally back to the Czechoslovakian state, becomes a central character in the novel with other characters sometimes as mere interesting visitors. But are they interesting! They bring art, architecture, science, lust and more to this book. In fact, the very best and the very worst of Eastern Europe during this era visit the carefully designed house of glass. Besides, it was quite informative to have this country’s view of World War II.
Here’s something from our discussion: The fictional Landauer House is modeled on a real house that still does exist. Villa Tugendhat, in what is now the Czech Republic, is considered a masterpiece of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
If you read this book, first go to this site: www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Tugendhat_House.html.
This will give you a mental image of the house. It is exactly the same ... right down to the onyx wall, which is cream-colored, not black. Almost to the person, we imagined the wall as being black even though, in the book, it is described in detail as being light colored. Strange.
Interestingly, in the book the wall cost $15,000 in 1929. That’s more than $150,000 in today’s dollars. That’s just one of the tidbits we shared during our discussion.