The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer

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The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sophie Diamond
Reviewed by Sophie Diamond
Summary: A touching tale of a life against a changing landscape.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 338 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 978-0751553079

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The Restoration of Otto Laird is an interesting concept for a story. It pitches an ageing architect against an ageing building that was built early in Otto's career. When Otto makes the trip from Switzerland to London to try and save Marlowe house from demolition, he takes an unwilling journey down his own past.

I found this story quite slow to start but increasingly intriguing the more it revealed of Otto's past. It's a story of a long life through the incredible changes of the 20th Century, revealing both how your young experiences shape you later and the astonishing speed of life. Otto finds himself looking around in his eighties, wondering where the years have gone because his memories of the past seem like they were only yesterday. We first meet an aged, some-what doddery Otto in his house in Switzerland; he’s struggling with the limitations of his age and his days pass by meaninglessly. When he receives word about the impeding demolition of his architectural triumph in London and is asked to take part in a documentary to try and save it, Otto is given a purpose he has recently lacked. But his journey to London hits him much harder than expected as he takes a metaphorical and physical walk down his memories. While Otto Laird retains the reputation of a genius, a revolutionary, brilliant architect, he is now an old man full of pain and regrets, writing honest and apologetic letters which he has no intention of sending.

This story is emotionally engaging and very melancholy throughout, which is why I can't say I enjoyed it exactly. This isn't a criticism of the book; I think to have strong emotional effects on the reader is a testament to the writing. Otto lived a long, often difficult life which is the crux of the story and why it is necessarily so emotionally demanding for the reader. Packer has a knack for uncomfortable honesty in his writing when forcing Otto to remember what actually happened, rather than glossing it over and reliving his memories the way he wished they had taken place. I also thought it was a brilliant touch to reveal Otto’s memories to the reader out of chronological order, so you may know what happened early but the why will keep you guessing until the end as more is light is shed on the matter.

The Restoration of Otto Laird is a look at a man’s life and the complexities of human relationships and experiences. It is an incredibly moving story, which may move slowly at times but it’s well worth keeping with it and letting the story unfold. The writing is a tad over descriptive for my taste but I can't deny the style fits the plot perfectly. If you enjoy a sophisticated and character driven story then this book is ideal for you.

If you like the sound of this, you’ll enjoy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach another tale of age and ageing buildings.

Buy The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer at

Buy The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer at


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