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Glasshouse by Morwenna Blackwood

This last week, I read Glasshouse, Morwenna Blackwood’s second novel to her debut novel “The (D)evolution of us". At the end of the novel, I came to realize that certain characters and events in the book are probably tied into that first book. Having not read the first book (yet, though I aim to change that), I can say that Glasshouse is nevertheless a stand-alone book, by a writer really at the top of her game.

Blackwood is clearly not afraid to take chances with structure and form. The reader fairly quickly realizes that the book is not divided into chapters – this is stream of conscious writing, and the “breaks” in that mindset come in the form of POV switches. The free-flowing form of that stream means we can better understand the mindsets of the “mentally ill” and “disturbed” (ill choices of words) characters we meet, and also of the individuals that treat those patients


And they are all self-serving nightmares.

Blackwood sets up characters that you start to care for, only to have those characters make bad decisions, selfish decisions, things that have knock-on effects throughout the novel. An event creates a cascade of self-interested actions that makes the reader aware that placed into a situation that is bad enough, it seems that the human instinct is one of self-destruction, a black hole of consequence that sucks all of those involved to its inevitable conclusion – there will be no happy end, and if there is one, it will only come at a cost, and that, to others.

The writing is wonderful, well-constructed, the shocks coming with the offhand certainty of an author pulling the strings of her audience. It’s fascinating, you want to know how bad it is all going to get, drawn along on the tide as it rushes to the only conclusion it could ever come to. Each new character introduced, regardless of redeeming features, turns out to be more fatally flawed than the next. It’s mesmerizing.

I think the ending must reference events in TDOU, it seemed to encompass a series of events that it is implied that the reader might recognize – so I will have to read the original soon – but Glasshouse is a thinker – it’s something that I really needed to process, and therefore the points it wanted to make about mental illness, it’s treatment, rape, drugs – hit home, and leave you unsettled and thirsty for more.

Really well done. Not a book you can skim through, it demands your full attention but is well worth the time you invest in Morwenna's world.

Five out of five stars.


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