Plastic Emotions review – finding the architect lost to history

Plastic Emotions is a reconstruction of the life of Minnette de Silva, forgotten Sri Lankan architect and feminist icon. Shiromi Pinto writes her back to life in a razor-sharp exploration of her life and legacy that blends fiction and non-fiction.

The book is one of contrasts, not least in de Silva’s life itself: on the one hand she is an eccentric London socialite, on the other she is a woman surrounded by men in a male-dominated profession. Her fervent desire to build a newly independent Sri Lanka from the ground up is contrasted with the country gradually sliding into political and social turmoil; underlined rather poignantly by the book’s opening scene of a present-day architecture student standing in the ruins of one of de Silva’s houses.

Everything is about deconstruction, construction and reconstruction against the backdrop of global turbulence, including the letters Minnette sends her Corbu. More than simple expressions of love, they document a period of twenty years filled with social commentary on gender, race, and class. De Silva and Le Corbusier makes sense of the world and their relationship using architectural movements – through their eyes every building is given a history and comes to life.

The result is a fascinating insight into the mind of a brilliant architect – an honest portrait of a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who transformed the building style of an entire country and deserves to be remembered on par with her male contemporaries.

Here’s what reviewers are saying about it:

“Plastic Emotions is an act of illumination: in its mission to recover the life of Sri Lankan architect Minnette de Silva, Shiromi Pinto has written a novel that is like a beam of light. It is also lyrical and revelatory, speaking to our times with a beautifully calibrated urgency.” – Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others

“In writing a novel of monuments and political and social turmoil, Pinto gives us the audacity of ambition and passion that marked Minnette de Silva’s life and work. Perceptive and inspiring.” – Niven Govinden, author of This Brutal House

“An elegant, elegiac book; a devastating deconstruction of power, told by a fine writer with an admirably cool eye.” – Preti Taneja, Desmond Elliot winning author of We That Are Young

Plastic Emotions is out now from Influx Press
p/b, £9.99)

Leave a Reply