The Glass Room by Simon Mawer Abacus, HK$108 Simon Mawer's The Glass Room was one of the outsiders in last year's Man Booker. Which is no bad thing, as outsiders often write the best books. Mawer is no exception. He first earned Booker notice with a fascinating fusion of science and philosophy, Mendel's Dwarf. His more recent effort is no less intriguing, no less erudite and no less readable. Set in 1930s Czechoslovakia, it follows a family, the Landauers - or rather a family home, the titular 'glass room'. Liesel and Viktor Landauer are honeymooning in Vienna when they meet the enigmatic Rainer von Abt. After a few polite enquiries ('You are Jewish then? ... You are not that Landauer, are you? Motor cars?'), Abt reveals himself to be a 'poet of space and structure' - that's an architect to you and me. It is his idea to build the Glass Room (or Glassraum), an attempt to create a sense of the infinite with only four walls. What ruins infinity and houses for that matter is history, and Mawer is deeply concerned with how events shape lives - in this case, the Nazi invasion, and the subsequent creation of the Soviet bloc. Mawer's is a quiet, rather earnest narrative, but it is as coolly beautiful as the house he imagines.