Monday, May 6, 2013

Memory in a House - part 1

Lucy Boston had led an adventurous life for a woman of her time. She had dropped out of Oxford University to become a nurse during WWI and worked in a hospital in Normandy. She had married her cousin, had her son Peter, divorced her husband, and moved to Germany and Italy to paint. When Peter started Cambridge, Lucy also moved to Cambridge and began obsessively painting King's College Chapel. Then in 1939, she bought The Manor, Hemingford Grey.

In Memory in a House, Lucy describes the two years that it took to restore The Manor as "which were by far the happiest of my life, even in spite of the war that broke out as soon as the builders began." (p. 19) In fact, she views her realtionship with the house as a love affair. She was aware that the house, which was built as a Norman manor in 1120 by Payne Osmundsen, was very historic, and she eventually documented everything she found and all the changes she made.

The forced restoration was brought about by the fact that the house was structually unsound due to cheap and unskillful renovations over the years. Faced with unsupported structural beams, walls cracking from top to bottom, and drastically sloping floors, Lucy was had no choice but to fix these problems. She was lucky enough to get honest and competent builders and architects to help her with the delicate job of historical renovation.

It becomes clear while reading the book that restoring the house was as much a creative endeavor for Lucy as painting a picture, or writing fiction. She was extremely sensitive to atmosphere, and accepted the physical imperfections of the house as part of the character that it had developed as it aged. She was also willing to change her mind about the alterations and restoration as she went along; the dining room, which she had thought was hopeless and would be used just as a corridor, became the center of her life, connecting the interior of the house with its equally important exterior garden.

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