This is a very good book! We know our homes and make choices in relation to them but this book will change how you think about almost every aspect of your home!
“Our houses and homes,” Heathcote writes, “no matter what style they are realised in, no matter how modest or seemingly ill-considered their architecture, are vessels of an extraordinary history, perhaps the last repositories of a language of symbol and collective memory that ties us to our ancestors, to profound and ancient threads of meaning.”
This is a slim book, less than 200 pages, but a meaty and entertaining one, rife with fascinating details. “Ghost” is the mirror word of “host”, the stranger to whom hospitality must be shown. As well as being a writer, Heathcote is a designer of architectural details, and the chapter on what modernists did to the door handle has a spark of real passion in it.
Each brief chapter deals with a different part of the house — bedrooms, corridors, balconies, mirrors and so on — and each has its origins in a series of columns Heathcote wrote for the Financial Times, where he is architecture critic. Heathcote is deft and witty, and wields the tremendous erudition he brings to the page with an enviable lightness of touch. And the cultural spectrum is spanned: Gaston Bachelard, Slavoj Zizek and Walter Benjamin rub citations with modern films such as Home Alone and The Matrix.
Sometimes The Meaning of Home feels like a miscellany, with Heathcote acting as valet discreetly ushering the reader through massed references and realms of myth. “Putting books in order,” he writes, “gives the reader a chance to become an architect, to build a personal world in which, almost certainly, only the user has the key to understanding the order, to travelling through the words.”
Buy it – you’ll never have a dull moment in its company!