Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room brilliantly evokes six decades of Eastern European history, beginning in 1930s Czechoslovakia. Jewish newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer build their dream home, and despite the low hum of the German war machine reverberating through the land, the two look forward to a life of promise. But as war becomes inevitable, their lives are transformed in profound ways.
This captivating historical thriller brings back Marian Sutro, ex-special operations agent, and traces her romantic and political exploits in post-World War II London, where the Cold War is about to reshape old loyalties. As Allied forces close in on Berlin in spring 1945, a solitary figure emerges from the wreckage that is Germany. It is Marian Sutro, whose existence was last known to her British controllers in autumn 1943 in Paris.
Barely out of school and doing her bit for the British war effort, Marian Sutro has one quality that makes her stand out—she is a native French speaker. It is this that attracts the attention of the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, which trains agents to operate in occupied Europe. Drawn into this strange, secret world at the age of nineteen, she finds herself undergoing commando training, attending a “school for spies,” and ultimately, one autumn night, parachuting into France from an Royal Air Force bomber to join the Wordsmith resistance network.
High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House shines as a wonder of steel and glass. This radiant 1930s house, with its unique Glass Room, quickly tarnishes as the storm clouds of World War II gather. The house passes from hand to hand, from Czech to Russian, and bears witness to both the best and the worst of the history of Eastern Europe.
"A Man, A Woman, A House"
Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause. Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation, and how to kill, Marian parachutes into southwest France with an urgent mission....
"The "hook" is missing"
Returned to an England she barely knows and a postwar world she doesn't understand, Marian searches for something on which to ground her life. Family and friends surround her, and a RAF officer attempts to bring her the normality of love and affection, but she is haunted by the guilt of knowing that her contribution to the war helped to develop the atom bomb. Where, in the complexities of peacetime, does her loyalty lie?
A scroll is discovered, buried among the ancient papyri of the Dead Sea. Father Leo Newman, a priest from Rome, discovers that the text appears to be a fifth gospel. If the scroll is authentic - and if the radical, incendiary story it tells is true - all of Christianity itself will be open to a complete reinterpretation...
"Promised much, delivered little"