Chatto signs The See-Through House

Rights - NonFiction Friday, 22 February 2019

Memoir by Shelley Klein of life in a modernist house and her textile designer father

Clara Farmer, publishing director at Chatto & Windus, has acquired World English rights in a
'one of a kind' memoir agented by Felicity Rubinstein at Lutyens and Rubinstein.

According to the acquisition statement: 'A strip of colourful glass panels set against a backdrop of birch and fir trees, ‘High Sunderland’ in the Scottish Borders, is not simply a house. For Shelley Klein, growing up there in the 1960s and 70s, it was like living in a work of art.

'Built in the modernist vernacular in 1957, its deceptively simple structure represented a coming together of two men’s ideas and ambitions: those of the architect’s, Peter Womersley; and those of a young Yugoslavian émigré and ground-breaking textile designer – Bernat Klein, Shelley’s father –
who commissioned the project. Bernat would live and work at ‘High Sunderland’ for fifty-six years.

'As a child, Shelley and her siblings adored the house (in a house with no doors, they could always see where their mother was), but as a teenager she rebelled against her father’s modernist mandates. Returning thirty years later to care for her widowed octogenarian father, the house hasn’t changed and neither has Bernat’s uncompromising vision: as Shelley installs her pots of herbs on the kitchen windowsill, he insists she take them into her bedroom for fear "they spoil the line of the house."

'For all his clear views on aesthetics, Bernat – Beri, as he was known within the family – was a generous and committed friend, and for Shelley he was an adored (if, at times, maddening) father. Threaded through the book is his moving story: an orthodox Jewish childhood in former Yugoslavia, his miserable separation from his family when he was sent to pre-war Jerusalem to study the Talmud, his rebellion and escape to art school in Leeds as the war ended and news broke of the loss of his mother and many other close relatives in the death camps of Nazi Germany.

'The See-Through House is a book about family, belonging, loss and grief – but also a celebration of colour, texture and light. After Bernat’s death, amidst the pain of grief, it is the familiar spaces – and views from – the See-Through House which offer Shelley great comfort.'

The See-Through House will be published in Spring 2020.

Shelley Klein was born in Scotland in 1963, the youngest daughter of textile designer Bernat and his wife and knitwear designer, Margaret Klein. She now lives in London where she works as a freelance writer for frieze and Tate Etc, among other publications.

Farmer said: "Shelley’s story of her upbringing is remarkable and her family home is unique, so it’s no surprise that her memoir is one of a kind. Good design matters, but so does good writing – Shelley’s evocation of place and ideas, and of family relationships, are wry and insightful, and shot through with beauty."

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