Reexamining Life and Colour through the Memories of a See-Through House

Is this how memory works, too? One reflection leading into another, each memory creating a network of glittering, intricate threads that vibrates just under the surface of consciousness?

I knew nothing about Bernat Klein. I had no idea he designed textiles and that he painted. I hadn’t even heard of his name before, which also meant I didn’t know he existed. So when I went into The See-Through House by Shelley Klein, I was drawn in by its title and the description that spoke of family, memories and links between Klein’s father and her family home.

This book is one that weaves little memories that intersects with snippets of hard facts and small worlds of emotion. We often feel nostalgia for moments in our past, but in this book’s case, I experienced second-hand nostalgia, something I didn’t know could exist.

The fluid writing style makes it so that the book progresses at a steady pace without being a bore. Books are meant to transport us away from the miseries of reality, and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to steal into the slivers of memories in this book. The book is captivating so that reading it feels like stepping through a window into another world and another time, filled with modernist houses constructed of glass and colours that hold a multitude of possibilities. It felt as if I were there, a silent observer throughout Beri’s past, present and future.

This book has two cores: the See-Through House, and Beri. Modernist houses have always seemed to me to be all marble and glass, minimalism and straight lines. It was all rather rigid and to some extent, I thought, dead. But is it necessarily so? The See-Through House is one of these modernist houses, but this book allowed me to see beyond the structure of the house, encouraging me to see that the life that went on inside the See-Through House that was no less vivid than my own. I saw that the house is a setting, and it is the people who live in it who breathe the life into a house.

Before reading this book, I had no idea who Bernat Klein was. After reading it, I don’t know all the nitty-bitty details about him, and honestly, I don’t have to. Instead, what I’ve gained is his daughter, Shelley Klein’s memory of him. It may not be my memories, but through this book, Shelley Klein kindly gives readers a glimpse of how she saw her father. In doing so, we are able to visualise the lively, brilliant man that is Bernat Klein, and we are able to imagine our own connections with those around us.

The cover for the see-through house by shelley klein. features the modernist, glass see-through house and part of the garden

Received in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Netgalley Random House UK, Vintage, and Shelley Klein for the chance to read this book.

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