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The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

I am so glad that my friends David and Helen suggested that I read this book before our trip to the Czech Republic in May. They suggested this book because we will visit the famous Villa Tugendhat in Brno. The Glass Room is a novel that revolves around the famous glass room in Villa Tugendhat. While the principal characters are fictious, they are based on the real people who built and lived in this house.  

This story spans many years, starting in the years after World War I. The main protagonists are Czech citizens Viktor and Liesel Landauer, who have recently married. Viktor is Jewish and Liesel is not, but neither are religious and in fact consider themselves atheists. Viktor is well-do-do and owns the Landauer car company which is very successful. They have two children - a little girl named Ottilie and a boy named Martin.

Viktor and Liesel decide to build their ideal and original house on a piece of property near her parents. They use noted German architect Rainer von Abt who comes up with the idea of a house open and modern with extensive use of glass. It's wildly original and different, and Liesel especially comes to love it with all her heart.

The book follows this couple as the horrors of the Nazis and World War II arrive at their part of the world. Other important characters in this novel are Kata and her daughter Marika. Kata is a poor and beautiful Jewish woman who becomes Viktor's mistress, of sorts. She forms a close relationship with both Viktor and Liesel and their children. Also very important is Hana, Liesel's best friend who is also married to a Jewish man named Oskar. Although not a person, the house itself almost becomes a character in this novel - we learn a lot about architecture and history, and though this house we are present to see how the different political regimes and alliances affected the lives of the inhabitants and those nearby. Both house and people are changed.

This is a good read and suggest to anyone who like historical fiction.

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