Excerpt from The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Glass Hotel

by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel X
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 16, 2021, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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Print Excerpt

1

VINCENT IN THE OCEAN

December 2018

1
Begin at the end: plummeting down the side of the ship in the storm's wild darkness, breath gone with the shock of falling, my camera flying away through the rain—

2
Sweep me up. Words scrawled on a window when I was thirteen years old. I stepped back and let the marker drop from my hand and still I remember the exuberance of that moment, that feel- ing in my chest like light glinting on crushed glass—

3
Have I risen to the surface? The cold is annihilating, the cold is all there is—

4
A strange memory: standing by the shore at Caiette when I was thirteen years old, my brand-new video camera cool and strange in my hands, filming the waves in five-minute intervals, and as I'm filming I hear my own voice whispering, "I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home," although where is home if not there?

5
Where am I? Neither in nor out of the ocean, I can't feel the cold anymore or actually anything, I am aware of a border but I can't tell which side I'm on, and it seems I can move between memories like walking from one room to the next—

6
"Welcome aboard," the third mate said the first time I ever boarded the Neptune Cumberland. When I looked at him some- thing struck me, and I thought, You—

7
I am out of time—

8
I want to see my brother. I can hear him talking to me, and my memories of him are agitating. I concentrate very hard and abruptly I'm standing on a narrow street, in the dark, in the rain, in a foreign city. A man is slumped in a doorway just across from me, and I haven't seen my brother in a decade but I know that it's him. Paul looks up and there's time to notice that he looks terrible, gaunt and undone, he sees me but then the street blinks out—


2

I ALWAYS COME TO YOU


1994 and 1999

1
At the end of 1999, Paul was studying finance at the University of Toronto, which should have felt like triumph but everything was wrong. When he was younger he'd assumed he'd major in musical composition, but he'd sold his keyboard during a bad period a couple years back and his mother was unwilling to entertain the idea of an impractical degree, for which after several expensive rounds of rehab he couldn't really blame her, so he'd enrolled in finance classes on the theory that this represented a practical and impressively adultlike forward direction—Look at me, learning about markets and the movements of money!—but the one flaw in this brilliant plan was that he found the topic fatally uninteresting. The century was ending and he had some complaints.

He'd expected that at the very least he'd be able to slip into a decent social scene, but the problem with dropping out of the world is that the world moves on without you, and between the time spent on an all-consuming substance and the time spent working soul-crushing retail jobs while he tried not to think about the substance and the time spent in hospitals and rehab facilities, Paul was twenty-three years old and looked older. In the first few weeks of school he went to parties, but he'd never been good at striking up conversations with strangers, and everyone just seemed so young to him. He did poorly on the midterms, so by late October he was spending all his time either in the library—reading, struggling to take an interest in finance, trying to turn it around—or in his room, while the city grew colder around him. The room was a single, because one of the very few things he and his mother had agreed on was that it would be disastrous if Paul had a roommate and the roommate was into opioids, so he was almost always alone. The room was so small that he was claustrophobic unless he sat directly in front of the window. His interactions with other people were few and superficial. There was a dark cloud of exams on the near horizon, but studying was hopeless. He kept trying to focus on prob- ability theory and discrete-time martingales, but his thoughts kept sliding toward a piano composition that he knew he'd never finish, this very straightforward C-major situation except with little flights of destabilizing minor chords.

Excerpted from The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Copyright © 2020 by Emily St. John Mandel. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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