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Archive for October, 2012

In 1938, Beatrice is living in Ireland with her unloving mother and distant father, and helping them in their small tea shop.  To make time move faster while she is sitting in the shop, she starts to sew and eventually becomes a proficient lace maker.  This causes a visiting Princess to notice her and suggest that she come along with her to Germany where she can live in the house of her rich and powerful friends there and make lace for the lady of the house.  Beatrice jumps at the chance because all her life she has been dreaming of escaping her quiet life.

Little does Beatrice know that the timing of her move to Germany couldn’t be worse.  While the family that she moves in with are powerful, aristocratic and non-Jew, they are also sympathetic and unwilling to support the Nazi party, causing them to move from Berlin to their family estate in the countryside, nearer to Russia.  Throughout their hardships, Beatrice becomes increasingly closer to Felix Metzenburg, the father, and his wife, Dorothea, as well as the servants that they had before Beatrice joined them.

The Life of Objects is extremely well-written and though it is a relatively short book, it is a slow read – but not in a plodding way – more of a thoughtful and careful way.  It is very affecting and seems to be incredibly accurately written in order to detail the events that even people who were living in the countryside trying to stay out of the way went through.  It continues through the Allied victory, and details the Russian occupation as well.  The Life of Objects was very well-written and I am glad that I read it.

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When I finished reading Mawer’s Trapeze, I looked him up to see what other books he had written, and I discovered that his The Glass Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009.  The Glass Room is a one-of-a-kind book that is something like I’ve never read before.  Instead of focusing on the people of the book (even though he does follow them and tell their stories), the main focus of the book is a house – an architectural wonder built in Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s.  Before reading the book I researched the house that it is based on and visited the house’s website so that I could picture it when the book described the building of the house and also the events that were taking place in the house (while the house in The Glass Room is real, all of the characters in the book are fictional).

Other than the house, the main characters in the book are Liesel Laundauer, her husband Viktor, and her best friend Hana.  The Glass Room starts right after Liesel and Viktor have married and soon the house is a character when they become friends with an architect (Rainer von Abt) who would ultimately design the house – which came to be known as “The Landauer House.” 

Central to the plot, of course, is the timing of the story (1930’s through 1960’s) and the location (Czechoslovakia).  The Glass Room provides the suspense and fear that permeated that country prior to its invasion by the German troops, and its effect on the Jews living in the country (Viktor Landauder and Hana’s husband Oskar among them).  We know from the beginning of the story that the Landauers make it out of Czechoslovakia, but we do not know how, and that is why the story is a can’t-put-down story.  The Glass Room also tells the story of the inhabitants of the Landauer House once the Landauers have fled to Switzerland. These are little stories that are interesting in themselves because  The Landauer House has a lasting effect on everyone that came into contact with it.

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