The Glass Hotel: a fragmented ghost story about the collapse of a Ponzi scheme

Book review: Mandel grounds her interrogation of reality in tangible modernities such as big industry’s invisible governance of the world

Emily St John Mandel: her  prose is restrained, beautiful for its observation and precision rather than its flourish.  Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Emily St John Mandel: her prose is restrained, beautiful for its observation and precision rather than its flourish. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

In Emily St John Mandel’s 2014 novel Station Eleven, the author conceived a post-apocalyptic world (post-pandemic, no less) to tell a story that championed human creativity. Her new book, The Glass Hotel, considers a lesser social calamity through a supernatural lens: it’s a ghost story about the collapse of a Ponzi scheme.

It’s hard to see at first, but the conceit’s logic is solid. In a Ponzi scheme, the funds themselves are ghosts. When investors lose everything, the life they know dies and becomes a haunting past. For the victims time is a line neatly divided between before and after.

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