Liesel and Viktor Landauer, a young Czech couple, are honeymooning in Venice when they meet Rainer von Abt, an architect who wants to build a house of glass.
Viktor, who is intent on escaping old-world sensibilities, commissions von Abt to build the house. Once finished, the sleek modernist building becomes witness to any number of messy human struggles and desires.
Always a strong story-teller, Simon Mawer, in this Man Booker-shortlisted novel, has found a subject that resonates more roundly than his previous fiction.
The advent of war sees the Jewish Landauers on the run, and the house transferred first into a Nazi and then a Soviet possession, before finally ending up in the hands of the Czechoslovakian state.
Mawer's recreation of life amongst the monied of mittel-Europe is entirely convincing.