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First review for Glass Houses by Anne Coombs (April 2023)

Glass Houses (Anne Coombs, Upswell)

31 January 2023 Books+Publishing

Glass Houses is Anne Coombs’s (Sex and Anarchy: The life and death of the Sydney Push) posthumous final novel. Perched on a ‘neglected hillside’ near the fictional town of Glaston in rural NSW is neo-Gothic mansion Glastonbridge, the imposing yet derelict centrepiece of the story. Many would call it a folly. Previous owners are reputed to have gone bankrupt or mad. Wealthy bon vivant Raymond is repairing it with taste and exactitude. It becomes his life’s work. His social circle—the Contessa, Titus and Sally, William and Robbie, Philip and Jules, and real estate mogul Theo (who is desperate to own Glastonbridge)—share his privileged lifestyle. They enjoy in-vogue restaurants, quality art, furniture and are ‘all obsessed with houses’. The story moves between glittering Sydney and the faded glory of Glaston, where other idiosyncratic characters also play their role in Raymond’s downfall. Rocks through windows remind the reader of the proverb ‘People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.’ https://upswellpublishing.com/product/glass-housesCoombs confidently leads us through the tale, with a satirical portrayal of the relationships between her self-involved cast of characters. An unnamed observer-narrator with a personal and historical connection to Glastonbridge heightens the intrigue. Glass Houses is a compelling literary tragicomedy about possession: possession of people but particularly possession of property. Ownership of objects and houses may fulfil a dream, but could become a tiresome burden or, at worst, a relentless spiral of obsession. This novel will appeal to readers of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

Joy Lawn has worked for independent bookshops and blogs at Paperbark Words.