The Glass Chateau

  • Review
By – October 30, 2023

This enchant­i­ng nov­el places the read­er in France after the end of World War II. The French are over­whelmed by the work required to rebuild their coun­try, and many are strug­gling to rebuild their lives, too.

One of these peo­ple is Ash­er, a Jew­ish man who lost his fam­i­ly in the war and became an assas­sin for the French Resis­tance. He suf­fers feel­ings of guilt over one of his assas­si­na­tions for the Resis­tance and grieves the loss of his fam­i­ly. Wan­der­ing the coun­try­side, he search­es for work and tries to meet his basic needs. On the verge of star­va­tion, he comes upon Château Guerin, a glass fac­to­ry that has tak­en in sev­er­al men like him. Ash­er earns his way in as a tal­ent­ed sto­ry­teller. Each of these men has his own secrets from the war, and the château gives them all a chance at redemption.

At the château, Ash­er feels he must hide not only his past as an assas­sin, but also his Jew­ish­ness. (There are some com­ic moments when Ash­er tries to pass him­self off as a Catholic.) His grow­ing tal­ent for glass­mak­ing helps him restore his sense of self. Over the course of the nov­el, he is sup­port­ed by Mark, the head of the château; Brigitte, his wife; and Marie, the local veg­etable farmer with whom he falls in love.

Stephen P. Kier­nan is par­tic­u­lar­ly good at mak­ing his char­ac­ters unique. The men of the château are care­ful­ly drawn, each of them encoun­ter­ing his own sor­rows and joys. There is Eti­enne, who becomes Asher’s tutor in glass pro­duc­tion, and Hen­ri, who can­not speak. There is also a name­less man with a heart­break­ing secret. By the end of the book, all of their secrets are brought to light, which is sat­is­fy­ing for the reader.

Kier­nan depicts the fas­ci­nat­ing art of glass­mak­ing, espe­cial­ly the process of mak­ing stained glass win­dows. His imagery, often involv­ing metaphors of glass and light, absolute­ly glows. The result is a won­der­ful nov­el about mem­o­ry, for­give­ness, and the strug­gle to reclaim one’s identity. 

Jill S. Beer­man grew up in New Jer­sey and attend­ed Mont­clair State Uni­ver­si­ty. She has a doc­tor­ate in Amer­i­can Stud­ies from New York Uni­ver­si­ty. She taught high school and col­lege for twen­ty-five years. 

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