Restoration Heart is a biography of the heart about an English writer and publisher who suffers a post-divorce, mid-life breakdown and is restored by architecture, love and beauty. It’s a story of love, divorce and redemption with an Elizabethan house at its heart: at the start of the memoir his old family house, Upton Cressett, is as much in need of being rescued and ‘fixed up’ as is its owner.
The memoir also holds up a dark lens to the Bonfire of the Vanities generation that Cash was a paid-up member of after leaving Cambridge. It is book-ended with a preface and epilogue set at his fiftieth birthday weekend party when he reflects back on the life scorecard of his greed-is-good Moneyman generation of the 1980s who used Wall Street and Liar’s Poker as their graduate career and even ‘life’ manuals (a theme Cash wrote about in a Sunday Times Magazine article on the 30th anniversary of Bonfire).
Drawing on his ‘Binder Box’ haul of love letters written to various wives, fiancés and girlfriends – all potential third wives and chatelaines of Upton Cressett – the book follows his Boswellian search for a family, including becoming entangled in a major tabloid sex scandal involving a well-known British politician.
The book includes encounters with a colourful cast of literary and political figures including Tom Wolfe, Jay McInerney, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Hurley, David Hockney and, most dramatically, Boris Johnson.
The memoir reveals how a broken man can become completely transformed – both emotionally and imaginatively – by a building and its surrounding landscape. During the four year refurbishment, the house’s reclamation becomes inexorably linked with his own re-birth and salvation before he finally marries for the third time and finally gets to live in his family house with a wife and family.
This is not a misery memoir but more like an uplifting, albeit tempestuous, Gulliver-like biography of the heart with an ancient Elizabethan house as the writer’s Arcadian safe house and source of salvation.