The review I have found for Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle is from the New York Times in 2005, written by Francis Prose.
The reviewer describes the book as one of ‘outrageous misfortune,’ an accurate heading for the stories told within. The words ‘outrageous’ and ‘misfortune’ could be seen as oxymorons to one another, but as Prose suggests, the endearing thing about The Glass Castle is how it is a bleak story told through the eyes of an optimistic child. Although any adult reading the book will be able to identify disturbing and negative themes running throughout, Walls has an interesting way of making us see how “she and her siblings were convinced that their turbulent life was a glorious adventure.”
This is something the reviewer compares to the fables of the Brothers Grimm, whose fairytales detailed the lives of “plucky” children who would escape the perils of an evil stepparent. The Glass Castle is a memoir, however still manages to convey some sense of fantasy in the wild adventures that Walls and her family get up to, such as the cheetah at the zoo and the stargazing. The fact that the title of the book is The Glass Castle, harks back to this magical idea that their father hopes to create. Much like the American Dream, the glass castle is always out of reach. Moreover the book ends fairly positively, apart from the death of their father, all the children bar Maureen, have gone on to live prosperous lives, far better than those of their parents.
The review focuses mainly on the plot but does pick out moments that have particular resonance. The vulnerability of Rex Walls is detailed in the scene where he “gives her” Venus as a Christmas present, a moment Prose describes as an “especially lovely scene.”
All in all, the review is positive towards The Glass Castle and says it achieves in being what the writer set out to write. It “falls short of being art,” says Prose, however the “outrageous misfortune” experienced by Jeannette Walls is clearly written in an interesting and charming style.