'Perfect Architect' by Jayne Joso
" A work of stunning originality and deftness of prose, in which Jayne Joso explores with delicate skill and rare empathy what becomes of the broken hearted. " Cathi Unsworth, author
A love letter to architecture, this novel is set in the dazzling and eccentric world of the star architect. After the death of her architect husband Charles and the discovery of intimate correspondence with another woman, Gaia Ore is about to learn some harsh but rewarding lessons on the nature of erotic and artistic obsession. A competition emerges to design her perfect home, and the private world of international architects is opened up. Flowing between Spain, Italy, the US and the UK, four world class architects – Charles’ former adversaries – take up the challenge. But will they truly understand what is required of them? Accustomed as they are to large scale projects such as skyscrapers, bridges, museums and galleries, will the request for a modest dwelling ultimately get the better of them?
Using written correspondence as a tool for the plot as well as a key to shifts in register and intimacy, this novel celebrates the old-fashioned postal service, exploring the age-old affinity of letters to romance. The international settings and glamour associated with the world of star architects – their passion, vision, their ideas and their egos – are set in counterpoint to the warm and funny local story of mailman Tom and his low-flashpoint, fleshy wife Cara. Jayne Joso is herself and journalist and ghost writer on architecture, as well as having lived in Kenya, China and Japan; this is the background to the novel’s central concern with uncovering the dream home. Joso says,
The desire to feel comfortable, at ease and at home, is something I think I have always been curious about. I love asking: what does it mean to find the right place? What makes one building your ideal dwelling and another just a house? We moved around a lot when I was little, so I was used to spending time figuring out how best to organise my things... It’s what we all do, and discovering the best use of the space you’re in and how best to accommodate yourself and who you live with is really quite an adventure. My travels, too, and the sheer excitement of seeing very different kinds of architecture and ways of living close up, of viewing space and how to inhabit it – all of these experiences in various ways have fed my passion for architecture, and have enriched Perfect Architect.”
This is UK-based Jayne Joso’s second novel. Her first, Soothing Music for Stray Cats, was heralded by the TLS as one of the “great London novels”, was described by author Joe Moran as the “debut of a distinctive voice in contemporary British fiction”, and by Natalie Haynes on BBC Six Music’s Cerys Matthews show as “the must-have novel for Christmas 2010”. It was also shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize 2010. Having written for various architecture publications, Joso now draws on her passion for the discipline in what may be coined as “Grand Designs meets I am Love. Perfect Architect is already attracting the attention of architecture magazines, and is a joyous and life-affirming read filled with warmth and humour, houses... and a hand-carved penguin!