Glass by Alex Christofi

Glass - Alex Christofi

A strange book that I’m still processing, but was slightly underwhelmed with.

 

Glass tells the story of Gunther Glass, a twenty-year-old ex-milkman and aspiring window cleaner. Sounds a bit unusual right? Well it was the main reason I was attracted to this book. I’m a bit sick of characters always having the same few professions, so thought this would be a nice change. Anyway, back to the plot.

 

Gunther, having a head for heights, becomes a minor-celebrity when he climbs the spire at Salisbury Cathedral in London to replace a light fitting. After this, he receives a phone call from a man called John Blades, a famous window-cleaner, who offers him a job in London cleaning one of the tallest buildings there, the newly erected Shard.

 

Glass, told in the first-person in past tense, recounts the period in Gunther’s life when his Mother has just passed away and he accepts this job offered by Blade because his father is in debt, (the family home being threatened with repossession) and wanting to help out.

 

I enjoyed this book to a degree. Chiefly I enjoyed spending time with Gunter, who was fairly likeable. The real reason this book suffered though was because it was trying just a bit too hard to be smart. In order to highlight the points it wished to, it worked with stark contrasts. For example Gunther, while being a window-cleaner, came out with a lot of keen observations about humanity. I think what the book was trying to do was stamp on the supposition that a window-cleaner has a lack of knowledge. While I liked how the author did this and completely agreed with the sentiment, it wasn’t smoothly translated to the character. Instead of retaining this air, Gunther would sway back and forth from these realisations meaning, in the end, that his voice didn’t ring exactly true. It was the same for most of the other characters in that something felt a little false about them. I think that if the character’s had been developed more instead of a concentration on the nature of existence, this would have been a more successful book.

 

There was another bizarre situation where Gunther moved into a flat in London with a man who’d been trying to write a book that he couldn’t finish. The book was supposed to be a guide to living. It’s fairly obvious to see the contradiction here; a man writing a guide to living life who can’t complete it during his life. Again, while I appreciated this idea, it didn’t really work when translated to the page.

 

Footnotes were often attached at the end of sentences and often these were unneeded, serving as more of a distraction to the narrative than adding anything.

 

The ending was quite a let down, epitomising the book really, and it felt as if the author ran out of steam.