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The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel…

The Restoration of Otto Laird

by Nigel Packer

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Otto Laird was a visionary modernist architect who is now retired and living in Switzerland. When his iconic concrete social housing block, Marlowe House, is scheduled for demolition there is a campaign to award it listed status and Otto is persuaded to come back to London to take part in a documentary about the building, its design and residents. However returning to London causes Otto to reflect on his life, the choices and decisions he made and their effects the people around him. From his childhood hiding from the Nazis, his precocious study and his relationships with his wife and son, Otto's life is reflected in the life of Marlowe House.

This is a very enjoyable book, Otto is a flawed character but his life choices seem compatible with the fictional character. The metaphor of Marlowe House, its decline and the characters within it link in perfectly. The life during wartime is believable, as is Otto's decision to deny his Jewish heritage. Despite his infidelities his grief at the loss of his wife is profound and the reconciliation with his son is a result of both maturing.

Some readers may find this book a little glib or superficial but it's clever rather than too clever and that makes it a great read. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
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Elderly retired architect Otto Laird lives a peaceful, if slightly bemused, existence in Switzerland with his second wife, Anika. Once renowned for his radical and controversial designs, he now spends his days communing with nature and writing eccentric (and un-posted) letters to old friends. But Otto's comfortable life is rudely interrupted when he learns that his most significant and revolutionary building, Marlowe House, a 1960s local authority tower block in south London is to be demolished. Otto is outraged. Determined to do everything in his power to save the building, he reluctantly agrees to take part in a television documentary, which will mean returning to London for the first time in twenty-five years to live for a week in Marlowe House. Once Otto becomes reacquainted with the city he called home for most of his life, his memories begin to come alive. And as he explores his past, ponders his present and considers the future -- for himself and his building -- Otto embarks on a most remarkable journey, one that will change everything he ever thought he knew about himself and those closest to him. Funny, moving and heart-warming, this is a novel featuring one of the most endearing protagonists you will ever meet, whose story will stay with you long after you turn the final page.… (more)

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