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All Passion Spent (Vintage Classics)

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Irreverently funny and surprisingly moving, All Passion Spent is the story of a woman who discovers who she is just before it is too late. After the death of elder statesman Lord Slane—a former prime minister of Great Britain and viceroy of India—everyone assumes that his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in her grief, remaining as proper, decorative, and du Irreverently funny and surprisingly moving, All Passion Spent is the story of a woman who discovers who she is just before it is too late. After the death of elder statesman Lord Slane—a former prime minister of Great Britain and viceroy of India—everyone assumes that his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in her grief, remaining as proper, decorative, and dutiful as she has been her entire married life. But the deceptively gentle Lady Slane has other ideas. First she defies the patronizing meddling of her children and escapes to a rented house in Hampstead. There, to her offspring’s utter amazement, she revels in her new freedom, recalls her youthful ambitions, and gathers some very unsuitable companions—who reveal to her just how much she had sacrificed under the pressure of others’ expectations.


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Irreverently funny and surprisingly moving, All Passion Spent is the story of a woman who discovers who she is just before it is too late. After the death of elder statesman Lord Slane—a former prime minister of Great Britain and viceroy of India—everyone assumes that his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in her grief, remaining as proper, decorative, and du Irreverently funny and surprisingly moving, All Passion Spent is the story of a woman who discovers who she is just before it is too late. After the death of elder statesman Lord Slane—a former prime minister of Great Britain and viceroy of India—everyone assumes that his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in her grief, remaining as proper, decorative, and dutiful as she has been her entire married life. But the deceptively gentle Lady Slane has other ideas. First she defies the patronizing meddling of her children and escapes to a rented house in Hampstead. There, to her offspring’s utter amazement, she revels in her new freedom, recalls her youthful ambitions, and gathers some very unsuitable companions—who reveal to her just how much she had sacrificed under the pressure of others’ expectations.

30 review for All Passion Spent (Vintage Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X has been locked down for one full year

    Little old lady tries, at last, to make her own life after a lifetime of looking after other people's interests and especially her children. One wonders exactly how much 'looking-after' does the Vicereine of India do when she doesn't even hang up her own clothes or make a cup of tea? She is once described as arranging flowers though - onerous duties indeed. So here we have a deluded, very wealthy old bat who buys a house in Hampstead and has only one servant in order that she may fulfil her chil Little old lady tries, at last, to make her own life after a lifetime of looking after other people's interests and especially her children. One wonders exactly how much 'looking-after' does the Vicereine of India do when she doesn't even hang up her own clothes or make a cup of tea? She is once described as arranging flowers though - onerous duties indeed. So here we have a deluded, very wealthy old bat who buys a house in Hampstead and has only one servant in order that she may fulfil her childhood ambition of being an artist, although she's never even produced a drawing and never will. She is courted by a very wealthy old man who once fell in love with her (when she was arranging flowers) who pops off leaving her his priceless collection of gewgaws instead of the museums and art galleries who are panting for such marvelous freebies to own for themselves. So what does she do, well she gives away all the money and art collections not because she is a charitable and civic-minded old lady near the end of her life, who doesn't need funds anyway, no, she does it because she is a real bitch, no matter how softly-spoken, so she can dispossess her rapacious children. Eventually, persuaded by the maid and her lawyer, she does feel guilty about doing such a thing, but there you go, the wages of sin and all that. Eventually she pops off too and that's that. Good read, well-written, set in a time and by an author who could not imagine anything much outside her realm of extreme privilege and where poor was only being able to afford a tiny house in a very posh area with only one servant. Thus was the lack of imagination of the entire entitled Bloomsbury Set. Rewritten 19 Feb 2017

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Geoffrey Scott, one of the many people who fell in love with Vita Sackville-West over the course of her life, said that there was an “indefinable something” about her writing that raised above what it otherwise might have been. Although he turned out to be a little crazy (that’s a whole other story), I can’t help but think that he was right about that. I certainly felt that way about All Passion Spent. Many people are not able to resist the powerful temptation to compare this work to Mrs. Dallowa Geoffrey Scott, one of the many people who fell in love with Vita Sackville-West over the course of her life, said that there was an “indefinable something” about her writing that raised above what it otherwise might have been. Although he turned out to be a little crazy (that’s a whole other story), I can’t help but think that he was right about that. I certainly felt that way about All Passion Spent. Many people are not able to resist the powerful temptation to compare this work to Mrs. Dalloway. It is understandable- both books are about an older upper class women looking back over her life, and the two authors had a love affair that began about the time Mrs. Dalloway was published, and essentially ended about the time Passion came out- the plots and themes of the two books even make for a really fitting metaphor about their relationship and the different conclusions that can come out of looking back and taking stock. I was tempted by that road myself. But as the story went on, I really decided it would be a huge disservice to simply dismiss it as a lesser Dalloway. It isn’t a lesser anything, and Sackville-West isn’t indebted to anyone or anything but her own experiences for the story on the page. The closest I can come to defining the appeal of Vita’s writing (or what I’ve read of it so far) is that it speaks to me in a voice I can easily understand, a voice I feel I’ve heard inside my own head, describing my own feelings- but without ever descending to the middle-brow commonplaces found in so much domestic focused literature. Put it better, she says things how I would like to have said them at the time- observing obvious things it took me years to figure out how to articulate. Her truths may be easily recognized, but they are also very poetic. One of my favorite passages describes the main character, Lady Slane, driving through India with her Viceroy husband, who is describing to her the various social problems she is to address with the ladies she’s about to meet. While he’s doing this, she is watching some butterflies outside the window and thinking instead about: “...moving into a cloud of butterflies which were her own irreverent, irrelevant thoughts, darting and dancing, but altering the pace of the progresion not by one tittle; never brushing the carriage with their wings; flickering always; and evading; sometimes rushing on ahead, but returning again to tease and to show off, having an independent and lovely life” … until she is recalled to her undoubtedly important duties by her husband and has to leave her ephermeral world behind. It’s touching to read this knowing that Vita must have been writing this partially to her husband Harold, who worked for the Foreign Office- perhaps an explanation as to why she could never simply follow him around the world going to tea with other diplomats’ wives. He eventually quit the diplomatic service for her, actually. Had he stayed, this could have been her future- she was always afraid of any part of her life swallowing her up, especially her marriage. This is the book where she tells you why. Lady Slane is in her late eighties. Her husband has just died, her children are elderly themselves, and there are scores of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Lord Slane was a greatly respected public figure, she was considered the perfect wife. She never really got a story of her own, having married so young- when her husband dies, her children try to go on making decisions for her, and she suddenly informs them, essentially, that she is not the person that they’ve taken her for their entire lives. No, thank you, she is going to live out her last years exactly as she pleases, and she is going to arrange it entirely for herself. They took her for dumb, you see, because she was so often silent, so subservient to their father’s every whim. Silly Mother, they said, can’t handle anything very real. As Lady Slane herself thinks many times throughout the story, no one ever asked her what she thought, or thought that she might have an entirely different self on the inside than the one she was obliged to present to the world. There’s a wonderful passage about the house she acquires to live in, speaking of the need for privacy in order to maintain any part of one’s self in a world that wants to take so much from you: “it was a very private thing, a house, private with a privacy irrespective of bolts and bars. And if this superstition seemed irrational, one might reply that man himself was but a collection of atoms, even as a house was but a collection of bricks, yet man laid claim to a soul, to a spirit, to a power of recording and perception.” I really loved VSW’s excellent treatment of the idea that people have many selves, many of which are private, some of which are easily misunderstood when only partially seen in the real world, or mistakenly slipped out in conversation. For instance: I adored the character of Edith, the youngest daughter of the family. She is given the first chapter, and we see how perceptive she is, what a delightful perspective she has on life. However, she can only get things out of her mouth “sideways,” voicing thoughts out loud without the accompanying train of thought that got her there- so she’s only seen as rude, stupid, or unfeeling. It’s a fascinating and a terribly sad idea that it is two worlds meeting that were never meant to is what gets you in trouble- that’s the only way to keep it intact. Lady Slane also expresses this idea beautifully. She’s talking about the idea that love or relationships are indeed worthwhile and often make up for individual expression, and yet: “Who was she, the “I” that had loved? And Henry, who and what was he?... Hidden away under the symbol of their coporeality, both in him and in her, doubtless lurked something which was themselves, but that self was hard to get at; obscured by the too familiar trappings of voice, name, appearance, occupation, circumstance, even the fleeting perception of self became blunted or confused. And there were many selves.” Do you see what I mean about taking a fairly basic truth and making it seem fresh again?- and yet, not hiding it behind any real tricks or disguising it behind images. She says what she means, but with such a keen observation that it becomes more than every day. I mean, what a wonderful thought the above is! It might boil down to what we’ve all heard about loving yourself first before loving anyone else, but there’s something more there- that “indefinable something.” This is without a doubt a feminist novel- an argument for the voices and lives of women being allowed to matter, not being expected to give way to men. But I think it’s also a general argument for anyone being allowed to make their own choice- not the choice dictated to them by the thousand little circumstances of class, gender, family, which parties one attended. It isn’t just Lady Slane who has made compromises, been affected by her life: we see her recluse possible other life love and the choices he made, her landlord, her agent. By the by, speaking of other people- It really is a novel populated by great characters. Edith, Genoux the maid, (oh, ps, if you don’t speak French- there are many lines of untranslated French spoken by this character- you can get by without it, but just so you know), the agent, her sons, her horrid daughter Carrie- they’re all recognizable and living in some way. I will say here that one of the things that might bother some people about the novel is its concentration on “rich, white lady problems: Vita herself brings that up when Lady Slane hears Genoux’s story, for the first time in the sixty years she’s been with the woman- she never asked! In 1930, it was hard not to be conscious that there were much bigger problems with the world. I kind of almost wish she hadn’t brought it up, though. Which sounds awful, but- she only brings it up at the very end, and you can tell that it’s in sort of a guilty way, like someone had just said to her, “I wish I had had these problems!” and she felt bad. I wish she had either brought it up much earlier to weave it into her tale or left it out entirely so we could journey with Lady Slane- and not worry that we really should be reading someone else’s story. I don’t know. That bothered me. It is a regretful novel to a certain extent, and perhaps even a novel that could be taken to be making an argument for a withdrawl from life- Lady Slane does spend an awful lot of time regretting the time and self that other people took from her over the course of her life, with not much acknowledgement of the fact that she’s lived what many other people would consider to be a very full life in many respects. VSW’s answer to that is this: “and she thought, if only I were young once more, I would stand for all that was calm and contemplative, opposed to the active, the scheming the striving the false- yes, the false, she exclaimed… and then trying to correct herself, she wondered whether this were not merely a negative creed, a negation of life, perhaps even a confession of insufficient vitality; and came to the conclusion that it was not so for in contemplation (and also in the pursuit of the one chosen avocation which she had had to renounce) she could pierce a to a happier life than her children who reckoned things by their results and activities” I also struggle with whether I think this is merely a negative creed, and how much one could miss out on following these ideas- but honestly I think VSW struggled with this herself. As she wrote this book she herself was falling in love again and embarking on yet another ill-advised torrid affair: striving, active, needing, desiring. What is worth more? Difficult to say. But either way, this novel is about a woman who ultimately does get the chance to come back to herself before the end, which she does in a splendid and engaging fashion. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a triumphant, hopeful ending. Look, I'm not saying this novel is genius or anything, it certainly has its problems, the magic is certainly quieter than the great novels of this era, and I'll even admit that there's a certain amount of "read this at the right time" in my opinion of it. But it is a novel will speak to many people for many different reasons, and for that, it deserves to be more widely read than it is now.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    “She wondered which wounds went deeper: the jagged wounds of reality, or the profound invisible bruises of the imagination?” - Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent I loved this book, one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year. Former Vicereine, Lady Deborah Slane, is not your typical protagonist. She is 88 years old and is recently widowed after a marriage of 70 years. Lady Slane decides to live the independent life she had always dreamed of, much to the chagrin of her snobby children. S “She wondered which wounds went deeper: the jagged wounds of reality, or the profound invisible bruises of the imagination?” - Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent I loved this book, one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year. Former Vicereine, Lady Deborah Slane, is not your typical protagonist. She is 88 years old and is recently widowed after a marriage of 70 years. Lady Slane decides to live the independent life she had always dreamed of, much to the chagrin of her snobby children. She moves to a small cottage far from her children and thinks back on her youth, marriage, life as a political hostess, and motherhood. Despite all the wealth and opulence in her life, her children and her dutiful husband, Lady Slane’s life hadn’t truly been happy. Her musings show that the things society often says are good for women may not actually be so in reality, and that many women often have to hide their true desires, and have had their youthful desires dashed or pushed to the side: “Youth is full of hopes reaching out, youth will burn the river and set all the belfries of the world ringing; there is not only love to be considered, there are also such things as fame and achievement and genius—which might be in one’s heart, knocking against one’s ribs, who knows?” The language in this book was so beautiful and philosophical. I probably have very little in common with Lady Slane, being from a different ethnicity, era, and class; yet I was able to put myself in her shoes. It was quite the experience. It was a contemplative novel and there was a lot of wisdom in the pages: “Nothing earns respect so quickly as letting your fellows see that you are a match for them. Other methods may earn you respect in the long run, but fir a short-cut there is nothing like setting a high valuation on yourself and forcing others to accept it. Modesty, moderation, consideration, nicety—no good; they don’t pay.” This was a good book to read on International Women’s Day. Because of its content, it made me dwell on what it must feel like for a woman having to sacrifice her dreams for a husband and motherhood. Perhaps not so common in the West nowadays, but in many other parts of the world this is still the case. Women getting forced into a certain role when perhaps they aren’t ready, or they are interested in pursuing a different path is tragic. Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Von Armin.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lynne King

    Update - 23 May 2020 The DVD with Wendy Hiller was absolutely, absolutely excellent. I loved it so much that I watched it three times. The attention to detail was remarkable and the DVD more or less stayed with the book, apart from the omission of Charles, one of the sons. But then he was such a boring, characterless individual anyway, so it as just as well. I just cannot say how impressed I was with Wendy Hiller. She was stunning. Considering that she was seventy-five when she played Lady Slane , Update - 23 May 2020 The DVD with Wendy Hiller was absolutely, absolutely excellent. I loved it so much that I watched it three times. The attention to detail was remarkable and the DVD more or less stayed with the book, apart from the omission of Charles, one of the sons. But then he was such a boring, characterless individual anyway, so it as just as well. I just cannot say how impressed I was with Wendy Hiller. She was stunning. Considering that she was seventy-five when she played Lady Slane , who was eigthty-eight in the book. The way she moved, her dress sense, the way she tentatively touched Mr Fitz-George's shoulder, a man who had loved her for around sixty years, just moved me so much. The life in India and then back to England, beautifully portrayed. The togetherness between the acting of this couple was superb and I just didn't want the film to end. It is so rare in this thoroughly unpredictable life of ours to find such sheer beauty in a work of art. All of the cast were splendid and the French maid, Genoux, I especially adored. Her final statement in this work of art was extraordinary. In all, I normally love a book more than a film but it is not the case here. I guess, I was just so carried away that I accidentally ordered two copies of this DVD. Such is life in this magnificent universe of ours even though we have a great problem with Covid-19. Still being touched by the hand of grace will ensure that all will be well. I think that the BBC productions are remarkable! And finally, thank you Vita Sackville-West for giving me such pleasure! * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Through my love of browsing I serendipitously came across a DVD with Wendy Hiller today and immediately purchased it. I did so love this book and hope that the film comes up to my expectations. * * * * * * * * * * I was so taken with this book that I found it quite impossible to write a review on it. But all I can say is that it is wonderful and so evocative of the time. Vita Sackville-West has always fascinated me. Ever since I read The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, I have been intrigued by her personality. She was indeed quite unusual for the period in which she lived. Plus Virginia Woolf's own Letters (comprising six volumes) cover her friendship with Vita Sackville-West. I went to her gardens in Sissinghurst, Kent many years ago. There was one section in the gardens where all the flowers were white. I've never forgotten that!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    Vita Sackville-West's All Passion Spent is a deftly written novel that seems extremely expressive of both a way of life now long gone, as well as of an older woman wistfully looking back at her life with a complex mixture of joy & sorrow. There are passages that are quite captivating, akin in a way to Virginia Woolf, with whom Ms. Sackville-West shared both an association via the Bloomsbury group (though not as a primary figure) and an intimate relationship. The author may be better-known for he Vita Sackville-West's All Passion Spent is a deftly written novel that seems extremely expressive of both a way of life now long gone, as well as of an older woman wistfully looking back at her life with a complex mixture of joy & sorrow. There are passages that are quite captivating, akin in a way to Virginia Woolf, with whom Ms. Sackville-West shared both an association via the Bloomsbury group (though not as a primary figure) and an intimate relationship. The author may be better-known for her work with the gardens at Sissinghurst in Kent, a ruined castle she worked to restore & for her bond with Virginia Woolf but All Passion Spent is an exceptional novel. We read of a life lived at the upper end of British Society when the Raj was still firing on all of its cylinders and when the main character served as Vicerine, the wife of the Viceroy of India, the colonial crown jewel, with her husband Henry Holland, First Earl of Slane, serving as Viceroy. In fact, everything we hear about "Lady Slane" is referenced in terms of her husband, who has just died at 94 but who is detailed as someone who had a "brilliant university career, a seat in parliament at a young age, a man of humor, suavity, courteous, charm, great common sense"--all of which no one could deny. However, he was also a "hedonist, a humanist, a philosopher, sportsman, scholar & someone born with a truly adult mind". Apparently, Lord Slane somehow always managed to see both sides of an issue, certainly a rare quality in any age. Oh, & let's not forget that he also served for a time as Prime Minister of Great Britain. But just where does being a widow to all of that leave Lady Slane? We are told that her 6 children & the spouses of the ones who are married have not taken Lady Slane as anything except an incompetent appendage to her late husband, as we infer may also have been the case with her now-deceased spouse. However, she listened well & by almost always remaining silent, Lady Slane, "although inarticulate, never made a foolish remark." There is however Lady Slane's daughter Edith, someone who has never left home & who seems to go against the grain of her siblings & also her brother "Kay", who seems rather aloof from the rest of the family & from life itself, or so it seems. The beauty of this book lies in the way it details a transformation of the widow, who in her late 80s begins to chart a path of her own, deciding to go off to live in Hampstead, rather than spend periods of time with each of her children, for we are told that Lord Slane was not a wealthy man & has not left sufficient funds for his widow to retain the lifestyle she was accustomed to. At this point in her life, Lady Slane doesn't fancy spending time with anyone under 70 & isn't very keen on her children either, with the possible exception of Edith, who has cared for her as she aged & Kay. After the move to a Hampstead estate she has long fancied & which has not been tended very well by an eccentric older man who proudly declares that he is both the agent for & the owner of the place, Lady Slane reminisces about the day when she passed from being a carefree girl to being the wife of a man who was moving to "the sphere when where people marry, beget & bear children, bring them up, give orders to servants, pay income tax, understand about dividends" & other tasks, who was now proposing to her. What was a poor girl to do when a man of great means & considerable potential invites her to be his bride? But now, 70 years later & for the first time since her marriage, there was nothing else to do..."except lie back against death & examine life."She saw herself as a young girl beside the lake. She wore the flounced & feminine muslins of 1860. Her hair was ringleted & one ringlet fell softly against her neck, with all the appearance of an engraving from some sentimental keepsake. Yes, that was she, Deborah Lee, not Deborah Holland, not Deborah Slane. The old woman closed her eyes, the better to hold the vision. The old woman beheld the whole of adolescence, as one would catch a petal in the act of unfolding; dewy, wavering, virginal, eager, blown by generous but shy impulses, as timid as a doe peeping between the tree trunks, as light-footed as a dance waiting in the wings, as soft & scented as a damask rose--yes that was youth, hesitant as one on an unknown threshold, yet ready to run her breast against a spear. The old woman looked closer; she saw the tender flesh, the fragile curves, the deep & glistening eyes, the untried mouth, the ringless hands and tried to catch some tone of her voice but the girl remained silent, walking as though behind a wall of glass. She was alone. The meditative solitude was a part of her very essence. Whatever else might be in her head, it was certainly not love. Lady Slane was in the fortunate position of seeing into the heart of the girl who had been herself. Her thoughts were of nothing less than escape & disguise; a changed name, a travestied sex & freedom in some foreign city--schemes on a par with a boy about to run away to sea. Deborah, in short, at the age of 17, had determined to become a painter.However, it seems that the idea of becoming an artist was merely an idle thought, a conceptual alternative to the life she lived, for never had she picked up a brush or considered a palate of colors. Sackville-West tells the reader that Lady Slane had been "thwarted as an artist" but I don't take this in a literal sense. Rather, "that self was hard to get at and there were many selves." Thus, after 70 years of marriage, the erstwhile Deborah Lee launches a belated search for her identity, becomes contradictory to her children & seems to want merely to simplify her life. She gives away the family jewels without much thought & in fleeing to Hampstead, seeks a kind of solitude, while at the same time reaching out to the elderly master of the property, Mr. Bucktrout, to a well-regarded general contractor, Gosheron, who helps her to refurbish her rooms at the estate & in turn is sought out by a man named FitzGeorge, a fellow of similar age who met Lady Slane briefly in India & has retained an elevated sense of her importance in his life for 60 or so years, only now reaching out to the newly widowed woman who has served as a kind of "immortal beloved" for him. This quartet of elderly folks take great comfort in each other & the manner in which a 40 year old author managed to paint them so sensitively is stunning! There is another main character, a French servant, Genoux, who has cared for Lady Slane for 70 years, accompanying her & family all around the world, while always remaining at something of a distance, as class & etiquette dictate. In time, her great granddaughter, also named Deborah, makes an appearance & serves as a foil for Lady Slane, entailing some very uplifting moments, especially given the age difference, as they find that they are like-minded in ways that both find essential. Each of these characters in their own way serves as a catalyst for an elderly woman newly in search of her re-imagined self. She is...trying to remember, trying to put her hand on something that remained tantalizingly just around the corner, just out of reach. Something has knocked against her as a clapper might knock against a cracked old bell in a disused steeple. No music traveled out over the valleys, but within the steeple itself a tingling vibration arose, disturbing the starlings in their nests & causing the cobwebs to quiver.Sackville-West's All Passion Spent is filled with such lilting, beautiful prose & I consider the book a small literary treasure. The author tells us that "Henry by the compulsion of his love had cheated her (Lady Slane) of her chosen life, a life in touch with the greater world & that it was a choice between masculine lordliness & abject feminine submission." Personally, I found the novel much more complexly interesting than that summation. There is also one more plot twist near novel's end that I hesitate to reveal, while at the same time highly recommending All Passion Spent. *The photo within my review is of a young Vita Sackville-West. **There is also a Masterpiece Theater filmed version of the novel from 1986, with Dame Wendy Hiller as Lady Slane that I highly recommend as well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction, by Joanna Lumley --All Passion Spent

  7. 4 out of 5

    Antoinette

    As I started getting into this book, I thought “ this book is igniting a passion in me.” A passion for the written word and its power. I started to feel that tingling that tells me this book is going to be special. Did this hold through for the whole book ? Sadly, no! The writing drew me in right away. The author certainly has a talent with words. “ What a queer thing appearance was, and how unfair. It dictated the terms of people’s estimate throughout one’s whole life.” In Part 1, Lady Slane’s hu As I started getting into this book, I thought “ this book is igniting a passion in me.” A passion for the written word and its power. I started to feel that tingling that tells me this book is going to be special. Did this hold through for the whole book ? Sadly, no! The writing drew me in right away. The author certainly has a talent with words. “ What a queer thing appearance was, and how unfair. It dictated the terms of people’s estimate throughout one’s whole life.” In Part 1, Lady Slane’s husband has died , and at the age of 88, she decides she will do what she wants for once. Her adult children are appalled as they had already planned the rest of her life for her. “...I have considered the eyes of the world for so long that I think it is time I had a little holiday from them.” In Part 2, Lady Slane is in Hampstead, reflecting on her life. It was sad to see how much of her life was shaped by her husband, and her dreams were left by the wayside. At the age of 88, she of course was aware that her time was running out. “Then, she had been face to face with life, and that had seemed a reason for a necessity for the clearest thinking; now, she was face to face with death, and that again seemed a reason for the truest possible estimate of values, without evasion. The middle period alone had been confused.” What I loved about this book was the writing. I loved watching Lady Slane find herself at last. With her new acquaintances, she became her youthful self. Why I did not give this book a 5 were the long soliquays, which made my mind drift off. This is a quintessential English book of the Bloomsbury group. If you like reflective books, you will enjoy this one. The family interactions were enjoyably funny. I do think the title is perfect for this book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    She could go on, for a little, secretly continuing to be herself. Lady Slane, born to elderly children and their too unsafe from death's hand, dying a little girl, a fawn lovingly caught in its own spotlights standstill, the spawn, the question to do you love me yes. My overwhelming feeling about Mrs Henry Holland was that when the voice of the novel describes her as sweet and stupid it was she herself that breathed this as the sweet and stupid air in her lungs. I had looked forward to tonight al She could go on, for a little, secretly continuing to be herself. Lady Slane, born to elderly children and their too unsafe from death's hand, dying a little girl, a fawn lovingly caught in its own spotlights standstill, the spawn, the question to do you love me yes. My overwhelming feeling about Mrs Henry Holland was that when the voice of the novel describes her as sweet and stupid it was she herself that breathed this as the sweet and stupid air in her lungs. I had looked forward to tonight all week. I'm off tomorrow for the holiday. Because I'm off tomorrow, tonight belongs to me. Tomorrow won't be nearly as sweet. I was going to curl up with a good book. I had dearly loved Vita Sackville-West's No Signposts in the Sea. I do not love All Passion Spent. I don't think there was anything about it that I liked. I'm kicking myself. Why couldn't I have picked something else to read? When Deborah is a young woman she gives herself over to the man who asks her. The book describes her secret self she would keep alive within to feed, to love, to resist losing what she wanted against the tide of duty. If there is anything I have come to know about myself as a reader through writing my reviews on goodreads all of these years it is this: Don't just tell me what everything means. She is thinking this because this means that and because she thought that it also means this other thing. That will lead to this thing happening. Oh yeah, and this other thing: Pretty means absolutely fuck all to me. If you have to constantly write that any character is pretty you are missing the point. Pedestals are wrong. I don't care if the elderly friend of her happy with his hobbyhorse son Kay remained in love with Deborah for decades because he saw her look pretty one damned time. No, no and no. It would have meant more to me to know that he resisted emotional entanglements of any kind by witnessing his restrained interactions with Kay than being told all of it on a platter. Sackville-West never allows them to be themselves. God, that is really boring and just not even a story. A woman in her eighties. If you can't just be yourself without worrying about looking hot when you are eighty what is the point of living? That also defeats the purpose of the "premise" of the book that she finally lives for herself at eighty something when the controlling husband dies. If she is going to be living for herself, as her own person at long last, why is it so damned important what the three old men she rekindles acquaintences with think of her? If it was as in No Signposts in the Sea the freedom of being yourself with another person, who won't think your trivial life is trivial, it would be different. You meet with someone else and can go further. That's beautiful. That's not this book. This is Deborah's secret self: She is afraid that she isn't worth very much. Oh, how I wish that the pain of a muted life had been felt, had been seen. Her sort of favorite daughter Edith puts herself out there (only I don't see it happen so much as get the narrated treatment again). She will say the wrong thing and fall in society of white sheep. Her mother was never found out and what did it matter, in the end? She longs for an artistic life and never moves a finger or an eye in its direction. It felt more like flattery of a special person she had a passing fancy of. Perhaps when she was a girl someone she admired made a comment in favor of artistic people and the desire got stuck in her head and would catch up on all of her other thoughts. I don't really know how she thinks, for all All Passion Spent is an echo of her thoughts. She doesn't have any special feeling even for the two children she likes best (Kay and Edith). She considers the other bossy children to be like her husband Henry (I never hated the book more than when she is "in love" with him). I don't know if their making assumptions about a person who never spoke up was any worse than the men who made assumptions about her that she wanted them to have. Her kids knew a woman who just did whatever she was told and that was her on the outside to them. Did her inside want anything more than to vaguely wish that she had had time to reflect on what she really wanted? She said yes to his marriage, or rather didn't say no. I get more out of imagining any young woman in her position than I do of this particular woman after reading a whole novel about her. It must be hard to be married to someone with expectations that you live up to who they want you to be. I know that she suffered in over her head parties and it is all in the past. I'm told. The most telling thing about her patterns was that she repeats that Edith and Kay were her favorites for reasons other than that she cared about them. The second time because they weren't Henry's in spirit. It all came out sounding like flattery fulfillment more than anything else. I didn't like that. Her ironic knowing smile when her big britches kids make plans for her she doesn't intend to follow. Well, then don't. But what stopped you before? You, right? Why is the knowing smile about them and never yourself? It was this that made her and the novel appear in cahoots, her enjoyment of being sweet and put upon. It isn't HER fault she doesn't live. As she floats above the ground, her head a hot air balloon. I guess if there was anything I did like is that the ending is of her eldest daughter Carrie. Her tummy squirming is of being judged by Misters Bucktrout and Gosheron, mommy's ardent admirers. Her self, if one watches oneself in mind like passing by a mirror and see what other see instead. The fear that what they see is not what you want to see is more important than what they really see. They represent her mother and her, the mother she didn't know and will never have again. She must kill it to go on living. I liked that I knew she would have to do this without being told. Last damned page, though. It could have been good to examine the danger of ones secret self. It would be at risk every day in a world of other secret selves walking about. What did that look mean, did she think me silly, I always sound so dumb. But if you don't have the you that is at peace when no one else is around you are doing it wrong. If you can't do it that is important. I have no intention on visiting with family tomorrow. It would take me ages to recover from it. I would think them true and I would have to read many, many books to forget myself and them (good books). Why would you write about secret selves and have nothing at all about what you have to think about all of the time to survive? I don't know, this whole book reads like some agreed upon system of what everyone is like anyway. Pretty people with titles and houses and suitors and stuff and free time. That's just not true. She loves Henry so much, she didn't know him. But what would she say if it happened more often that he said she was intelligent? How would she feel about him if she could have seen him and he never knew her? No, I just don't like books that talk, talk, talk and don't ask any of the good questions anyway and they never trust you to know the secret selves at all. What would they look like if you met them? Would you ever know they wanted to be something more than they felt they were? Would they even care that you felt those same things too, or dare to dream it? It pisses me off I'm robbed of suspecting it about Edith because she TELLS me she does. (I could have wondered if Kay was so comfortable by himself he didn't worry about the insides of outsides.) I wouldn't like this book even without the other problems for that alone. It really is the most unforgivable book mistake, for me. Don't they know it is where I live. Do they even care? So for months she had lived intensely, secretly, building herself in preparation, though she never laid brush to canvas, and only dreamed herself away into the far future. She could gauge the idleness of ordinary life by the sagging of her spirits whenever the flame momentarily burnt lower. Those glimpses of futility alarmed her beyond all reason. The flame had gone out, she thought in terror, every time it drooped; it would never revive; she must be left cold and unillumined.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “It had never occurred to him that she might prefer simply to be herself.” This quietly intense novel tells of an old woman making changes to her life after the death of her husband. They had had everything society at the time thought important: money, position and family. She discovers, however, that she had always wanted something else. It’s a story of aging and the meaning of life. It’s about sacrifice and character and honesty. It is profound, but it reads easy and light, almost like a short “It had never occurred to him that she might prefer simply to be herself.” This quietly intense novel tells of an old woman making changes to her life after the death of her husband. They had had everything society at the time thought important: money, position and family. She discovers, however, that she had always wanted something else. It’s a story of aging and the meaning of life. It’s about sacrifice and character and honesty. It is profound, but it reads easy and light, almost like a short story. I knew of Vita Sackville-West only from her connection with Virginia Woolf. Now I’m especially curious about her poetry. Some lines in this were gorgeous, combining subtle meaning with the beauty of a landscape painting. “Something had knocked against her as the clapper might knock against a cracked old bell in a disused steeple. No music travelled out over the valleys, but within the steeple itself a tingling vibration arose, disturbing the starlings in their nests and causing the cobwebs to quiver.” I enjoyed the truths about the artistic nature and I liked the way the character of Lady Slane deals with regret—the focus is on her awareness, not on blame or depression. And I found it especially comforting that we never really stop discovering things.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

    “On the contrary," said Lady Slane, "that is another thing about which I've made up my mind. You see, Carrie, I am going to become completely self-indulgent. I am going to wallow in old age. No grandchildren. They are too young. Not one of them has reached forty-five. No great grandchildren either; that would be worse.  I want no strenuous young people, who are not content with doing a thing, but must needs know why they do it. And I don’t want them bringing their children to see me, for it w “On the contrary," said Lady Slane, "that is another thing about which I've made up my mind. You see, Carrie, I am going to become completely self-indulgent. I am going to wallow in old age. No grandchildren. They are too young. Not one of them has reached forty-five. No great grandchildren either; that would be worse.  I want no strenuous young people, who are not content with doing a thing, but must needs know why they do it. And I don’t want them bringing their children to see me, for it would only remind me of the terrible  effort the poor creatures will have to make before they reach the end of their lives in safety. I prefer to forget about them. I want no one about me except those who are nearer to their death than to their birth. These things—the straw, the ivy frond, the spider—had had the house all to themselves for many days. They had paid no rent, yet they had made free with the floor, the window, and the walls, during a light and volatile existence. That was the kind of companionship that Lady Slane wanted; she had had enough of bustle, and of competition, and of one set of ambitions writhing to circumvent another. She wanted to merge with the things that drifted into an empty house, though unlike the spider she would weave no webs. She would be content to stir with the breeze and grow green in the light of the sun, and to drift down the passage of years, until death pushed her gently out and shut the door behind her.” When Lady Slane’s husband passes away, well into his 90s, her six patronising and self-important children and their spouses decide she must spend the rest of her life dividing her time between each couple, living in their homes and contributing to the expenses in a manner which will be amply profitable to them, while presenting this to her as being in the interest of maintaining her correct place in society. But 88 year-old Deborah, Lady Slane, who has always effaced herself behind her husband, a former Viceroy of India and a member of the House of Lords, has always dreamed of becoming an artist, and decides otherwise; she will move into her own house in Hampstead, thank you very much, and furthermore, she will only invite elderly people like herself who have similar priorities and share her views on life. Now that she is closer than ever to dying, she wants nothing to do with the constant striving and ambitions of the young. Having installed herself in her new home, she makes a very good friend of the cottage’s owner, the elderly and very thoughtful Mr Bucktrout, who sets about renovating and redecorating the house at his own expense so she can live in greater comfort. Then a vague acquaintance, a man from her distant past in India, Mr FitzGeorge, who has become a millionaire and an eccentric, renown for his collection of fine art, reintroduces himself into her life. He has always been in love with the once beautiful Lady Slane, and they form a special kind of friendship which will influence the rest of her ladyship’s few remaining years. Vita Sackville-West, among her many passionate love affairs, was very famously a lover and companion to Virginia Woolf. Here she borrows a theme which the two women and their friends no doubt often discussed together, and explores how a woman who has money at her disposal, and access to more than a mere Room of Her Own, might choose to live out her final years, when she has the wherewithal and mental fortitude to free herself of social constraints imposed on her by her own familial obligations—the most binding of all. The back story about the close friendship between these two authors was far from my mind when I chose to read this book, so it turned out to be a very timely read so shortly after revisiting Woolf’s A Room of One's Own in September of 2012. I loved and took comfort in these reflections on old age, and how one might eventually look back on life from the distance of a great many decades, having acquired completely different priorities from those of earlier years. I also found it strange and intriguing that these reflections resonated perfectly with my own at that stage in my life, albeit my then 93-year old friend Liselotte considered me to be a mere young girl, when I was still in my early 40s, and as all things are relative, I suppose she was right. I found this review again on LibraryThing, surprised I hadn't posted it here yet, but then seeing it needed some editing, and decided to revise it a little before publishing it here on Goodreads. What led me to it in the first place is when I noticed today I'd failed to catalogue a green Virago edition of this book I'd purchased in 2017 from a UK seller. Failing to catalogue a book can have serious consequences for me, such as purchasing more copies of similar editions (unbearable drama!). When I already have the title in other edition, which really is an inexcusable waste of time and money and space. I thumbed through it to check on the quotes from the book I had only transcribed from the audio version previously, which of course had many small mistakes, mostly do do with punctuation, but also a word contraction or two, which I attribute to the wonderful interpretation of Dame Wendy Hiller for the audiobook. I reflected that this novel has gained further relevance to me in these six or seven years later, as I was rereading passages from the book. Most people my age are still running around, overachieving as a part of their daily routine, but my lifestyle is one of a disabled pensioner because of lifelong health problems which grew in intensity and made me unable to have a normal life anymore, whatever that is anyway. I've had to make my own choices and surmount many people's expectations—people in my own family especially, had to disappoint them to put my priorities and my wellbeing first, without consulting anyone once I knew what their own ideas on the matter were, just as Lady Slane does in the novel. And just as my beloved Liselotte did, in her own way, may she rest in peace now. In that way, the novel is ageless, and Lady Slane is ageless. She lives the life that any woman should be able to live. She lives a life of her own choosing. I suppose this is a book to grow old and comfortable with, a literary equivalent to Lady Slane's house in Hampstead which is always being improved upon and gets prettier and cozier over time. Though of course life is full of surprises. Some are good, some are not. Some just are. I look forward to reading All Passion Spent again very soon. The title of the novel comes from the last line of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes, a portion of which Sackville-West used as the book’s epigraph: 324. From 'Samson Agonistes ALL is best, though we oft doubt, What th' unsearchable dispose Of highest wisdom brings about, And ever best found in the close. Oft he seems to hide his face, But unexpectedly returns And to his faithful Champion hath in place Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns And all that band them to resist His uncontroulable intent. His servants he with new acquist Of true experience from this great event With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Stroh

    Fair Spouse says I am not allowed to while away any more time writing reviews on Goodreads until I tell you about this wise, gentle, funny feminist classic written in 1931 by Vita Sackville-West. Yes, I said "Sackville-West" and "feminist" in the same sentence. The audiobook performance by Wendy Hiller is my favorite of all time. I listened to it again about a year ago, on a trip across the country, and I resented having to get out of my car. The book reads like music. Hiller reads it like she's Fair Spouse says I am not allowed to while away any more time writing reviews on Goodreads until I tell you about this wise, gentle, funny feminist classic written in 1931 by Vita Sackville-West. Yes, I said "Sackville-West" and "feminist" in the same sentence. The audiobook performance by Wendy Hiller is my favorite of all time. I listened to it again about a year ago, on a trip across the country, and I resented having to get out of my car. The book reads like music. Hiller reads it like she's singing an aria. Born in the 1860s, Deborah Slane spent most of her life in the company of the upper classes. She also spent it as the wife of a Viceroy, doing her duty. Now it's time for fun--only don't go telling her six uptight children, sexagenarians and septagenarians themselves, all bent on coddling or controlling her, each in the style dictated by his or her temperament. Lady Slane rethinks her life and decides to take drastic action (which is very funny) to live out her days the way she wants and with whom she wishes. Funny scenes; sharp, witty writing when called for; eccentric and lovable characters; marvelous atmosphere including gorgeous scenes of contemplation and memory painted in light and fragrance; real ideas; and a few surprises. This is some of Vita Sackville-West's warmest, most humane writing (and I include her gardening letters in my assessment). It expresses her outlook and views on most things (especially on marriage) with economy, clarity and relaxed style. Lady Slane is the author's dream partner, as a character, in philosophic enquiry. Any novel about old age, money-grubbing adult children and a beautiful, artistic woman over eighty risks cloying sentimentality on the one end, horrifying bad taste on the other. This one avoids both ends of the spectrum. In many ways it's a perfect book, often dismissed as a minor novel compared with, say, To The Lightouse by Virginia Woolf. This is better than To the Lighthouse, and it competes well with Mrs. Dalloway, the book that infuses this one. Is that a sacrilege? Well I think it's true. Sackville-West's feminism in All Passion Spent is clearer than anything comparable by Woolf. I feel this more strongly every time I re-read this very re-readable book. If you like dreamy novels to mull over, chapter by chapter, on your walk or in the bath, this book will win your heart.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

    3.5 stars. After her husband's death, Lady Slane escapes from her controlling children to end her days with her faithful servant Genoux in a rented house in Hampstead. Here she finds peace and friendship with her philosophical landlord. Her children seem only concerned with what other people will think and what is the 'done thing'. Lady Slane wanted to be an artist, this idea was abandoned upon marriage, I was sad that her new found freedom didn't enable her to find an outlet for her artistic ex 3.5 stars. After her husband's death, Lady Slane escapes from her controlling children to end her days with her faithful servant Genoux in a rented house in Hampstead. Here she finds peace and friendship with her philosophical landlord. Her children seem only concerned with what other people will think and what is the 'done thing'. Lady Slane wanted to be an artist, this idea was abandoned upon marriage, I was sad that her new found freedom didn't enable her to find an outlet for her artistic expression but it did end with a hint that not all her family would conform to the requirements of their class. The story made it clear that most of her children were really not nice people but it leaves the question who raised them ? I felt sorry for poor Genoux, she seemed unappreciated and taken for granted, she had given up her life too. What happened to her after Lady Slane died ? Genoux is surely the one to feel her death the most. I would like to think Mr Bucktrout will help her.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    ”It is terrible to be twenty, Lady Slane. It is as bad as being faced with riding over the Grand National course. One knows one will almost certainly fall into the Brook of Competition, and break one’s leg over the Hedge of Disappointment, and stumble over the Wire of Intrigue, and quite certainly come to grief over the Obstacle of Love. When one is old, one can throw oneself down as a rider on the evening after the race, and think, Well, I shall never have to ride that course again.” “But you ”It is terrible to be twenty, Lady Slane. It is as bad as being faced with riding over the Grand National course. One knows one will almost certainly fall into the Brook of Competition, and break one’s leg over the Hedge of Disappointment, and stumble over the Wire of Intrigue, and quite certainly come to grief over the Obstacle of Love. When one is old, one can throw oneself down as a rider on the evening after the race, and think, Well, I shall never have to ride that course again.” “But you forget, Mr. Bucktrout,” said Lady Slane, delving into her own memories, “when one is young, one enjoyed living dangerously - one desired it - one wasn’t appalled.” As her biographer Victoria Glendinning notes in my Virago edition to this book, when Vita Sackville-West wrote this story - about an 88 year-old widow who desires to retire from social and even family life - she was, herself, only 38 and “at the height of her own energies”. In some ways it is a mystery that V S-W was able to convey old age so convincingly, but in other ways this book seemed to presage her own gradual withdrawal from social life - and her increasing desire to be left alone at Sissinghurst with her writing and her garden. This is a delicate book, ruminative and gentle, but not without mischief. I think the premise will appeal to many readers, perhaps especially middle-aged women who are overwhelmed by the demands of their busy lives. Who doesn’t fantasise, at times, about retreating to a small house (in Hampstead, no less!) of one’s own choosing? Who doesn’t desire to be done with all the ambition and struggle of the world? The book begins with Lord Slane’s death. He has been a Viceroy of India and a Prime Minister. He has been a ‘great man’, consulted and feted, until the end of his life. One of the strongest images of the book is quoted by Glendinning in the introduction, but I think it would have stood out for me even if I had not been alerted to it. “Her love for him had been a straight black line drawn right through her life. It had hurt her, it had damaged her, it had diminished her, but she had been unable to curve away from it.” Not everyone will be able to identify with a protagonist who feels released by her husband’s death, specifically because she feels that at last she is free to be entirely herself - but this premise (thesis?) had a poignant appeal for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Prior to reading this novel, all I really knew about Vita Sackville-West was that she inspired Woolf's Orlando. For that reason, I was expecting something rather dashing and romantic. --So you can imagine my initial disappointment when this turned out to be an uneventful book about old people! This is a quiet, if assertively feminist, work. It isn't quite my own brand of feminism. I kept thinking, "Yes, I see your point, but I can't quite relate to it." It seems to me, there are worse things than Prior to reading this novel, all I really knew about Vita Sackville-West was that she inspired Woolf's Orlando. For that reason, I was expecting something rather dashing and romantic. --So you can imagine my initial disappointment when this turned out to be an uneventful book about old people! This is a quiet, if assertively feminist, work. It isn't quite my own brand of feminism. I kept thinking, "Yes, I see your point, but I can't quite relate to it." It seems to me, there are worse things than a wealthy husband! I don't normally do a synopsis, but here's the essence of the story: Her lead character Deborah is passively led into a marriage she doesn't want. She secretly resents her husband, because she believes his career stands in the way of her own passion for art, -- a passion she has not pursued in any way. Though described as a devoted wife and mother, Deborah doesn't appear to mourn her husband's passing (at the opening of the story) or to feel any affection for her children, her home, or any other tangible aspect of her life. I can't reveal any more than that, but yeah, what passion spent? This book should be called, All Attachment Averted (says me). But Vita kept ahead of me! She outsmarted me! She answered my criticisms as quickly as I could form them: Yes, this character is a detached and idle dreamer. Yes, she's very, very privileged. Again and again, she led me right into her trap. All Passion Spent reflects Woolf's argument for the "androgynous mind". Deborah is too feminine. Her husband, too masculine. This theme echoes throughout the lives of all the book's characters, regardless of actual gender. The very concept of gender is a difficult one to define. I can't say whether Vita achieved this, but I give her credit for even trying. Beyond that, it's a book about life, death, aging, beauty, and self expression. This book shimmers with startling insights. But it doesn't, to misquote Fitzgerald, turn the light on within my own soul. Or does it?: "...the children themselves were entirely ignorant, an ignorance which added considerably to Lady Slane's half-mischievous, half-sentimental pleasure, for pleasure to her was entirely a private matter, a secret joke, intense, redolent, but as easily bruised as the petals of a gardenia."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    This is such a beautiful book. The emotions and feelings within it are so real. The story is wonderful. I'm so glad my mom recommended it to me, but I'm sorry it took me so long to finally read. I wish I could read this for the first time again. This is such a beautiful book. The emotions and feelings within it are so real. The story is wonderful. I'm so glad my mom recommended it to me, but I'm sorry it took me so long to finally read. I wish I could read this for the first time again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Story about an old lady Lady Slane – wife of the ex-Prime Minister who on his death discovers her independence much to the surprise and shock of her six children, and goes to live in a small house in Hampstead where she spends time with Genoux (her lifelong French maid), Mr Bucktrout (who lets the house to her) and Mr Gosheron (an old fashioned painter and carpenter) barely seeing her children and certainly not her grandchildren. She also meets Mr FitzGeorge an eccentric millionaire who had met Story about an old lady Lady Slane – wife of the ex-Prime Minister who on his death discovers her independence much to the surprise and shock of her six children, and goes to live in a small house in Hampstead where she spends time with Genoux (her lifelong French maid), Mr Bucktrout (who lets the house to her) and Mr Gosheron (an old fashioned painter and carpenter) barely seeing her children and certainly not her grandchildren. She also meets Mr FitzGeorge an eccentric millionaire who had met and loved her in India when she was young and very lovely She remembers her youth – and in particular how she was forced by society’s convention to give up on her dreams of being a painter to marry and subsume her own wishes and ambitions to those of her children and her husband. Towards the end of her book she meets a grandchild and encourages her in her desire against her parents wishes to become a writer. Presumably this signals the authors hope that women in the 2nd half of the 20th century will be able to live their own lives. Very well written – lovely descriptive language but at the same time easy to read and with a great characterisation of Lady Slane and her six children and a very interesting meditation on age as well as the role of women (effectively a feminist book). Character (and one assumes author) seem unaware of the privileges and freedom that riches and station have given her – Genoux for instance is without comment and any seeming irony described as entirely devoted to Lady Slane and her fortunes. Towards the end of that book Lady Slane does comment on this – although even there it seems more to the misfortunes of Genoux’s own circumstances in earlier life than to the general domination of upper class masters over lower class servants. This seeming lack of awareness – coupled with the fact that Lady Slane says she never laid brush to canvas – makes much of the book appear self-pitying rather than moving.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diane Challenor

    The words that came to mind while listening to this audiobook were: wonderful and beautiful. Why wonderful? Why beautiful? I've learned when making broad, one or two word statements, the writer announcing their view must not let their reader down, they must follow their statement with an explanation, particularly if the writer is a book blogger. The reader will need to know the “why” of the blogger’s reading experience. So, why “wonderful”. The book tells the fictional story of an elderly woman, of The words that came to mind while listening to this audiobook were: wonderful and beautiful. Why wonderful? Why beautiful? I've learned when making broad, one or two word statements, the writer announcing their view must not let their reader down, they must follow their statement with an explanation, particularly if the writer is a book blogger. The reader will need to know the “why” of the blogger’s reading experience. So, why “wonderful”. The book tells the fictional story of an elderly woman, of eighty eight years, set in London in around 1930. A woman who leads a privileged life and whose now departed husband had been the Viceroy of India and a British high ranking politician. Although she lived the life of a pampered Edwardian lady, she was pretending to be all the things everyone expected. She did all this with grace and fortitude. Her life had been all about her husband’s ambitions and her children’s needs. She did her duty. Her experience followed the path of a famous saying: “I dreamed I dreamt that life was beauty. I awoke and found that life was duty.” I believe the quote is the core of the story. There was more to it though. When duty was done, the main character, Lady Slane was able to say “enough is enough” and proceeded to remove herself from her dutiful life and set herself up in an apartment in Hampstead to reflect and to enjoy “quiet”. Enjoy solitude. To enjoy freedom. She included in her new life her delightful and endearing elderly French maid, Genoux, along with a limited number of people who newly came into her life, people who spoke the truth and were philosophical about life and nature. The story is wonderful because it’s about love. Not romantic love, it’s about the love of one’s own heart, the love of quiet freedom. That is why I think the story is wonderful. Why I think the story is beautiful. I enjoyed this story on many levels. Most importantly the narrator and her presentation enhanced the story. The rolling of her “R’s” in the British way made me smile. The narrator, Dame Wendy Hiller, is not a person who I know anything about, but oh, is she good at narrating this story. Her voice is absolutely spot on, putting the listener into the mind of Lady Slane and allowing access to her beautiful mind and her beautiful thoughts. I’d say that’s what made the story sing to me. And there’s something else. The author, Vita Sackville-West wrote this in the early 20th century, her writing displays a deep understanding of how an intelligent woman thinks and dreams. Her turn of phrase makes her writing accessible to the 21st century reader. Vita Sackville-West wrote cleanly without too much flourish, without density. She said enough and shared enough to make the prose beautiful. I guess you can tell by my blog post that I found this book wonderful, and beautiful at the same time. This blog post was published by me, Diane Challenor, on my book-blog at: Artuccino

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    I found this to be a thoughtful novel about a woman who finally gets to live as she pleases following the death of her husband upsetting the plans of her pompous and calculating children. The middle part of the book focuses on her contemplation of the past; her life always in the background as the wife of a prominent and charming politician. I found this section to be quite sad as she reflects upon how her spirit was subsumed by the role of wife and mother for the majority of her life. Some of th I found this to be a thoughtful novel about a woman who finally gets to live as she pleases following the death of her husband upsetting the plans of her pompous and calculating children. The middle part of the book focuses on her contemplation of the past; her life always in the background as the wife of a prominent and charming politician. I found this section to be quite sad as she reflects upon how her spirit was subsumed by the role of wife and mother for the majority of her life. Some of the most charming scenes in the book are the conversations between her French maid of 60 years and the estate agent/owner of her retirement home as she lives out her days thumbing her nose at convention.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    It’s a quiet, beautifully told vignette of a woman’s last year of life. She had dreamt of being a painter, and retains an artist’s eye, but subsumed hers. I was disappointed with the outcome, I wanted this woman to pick up her brushes and create something, or at least accept the love an old flame had given her.

  20. 4 out of 5

    SarahC

    Published in 1931, a unique story of a lady and her independence, which is cultivated at a very unlikely time in her life. She empowers her life by choosing to retreat from public life to her own quiet chosen place in Hampstead and fosters her own priorities and her own friendships. A story so simple it is almost a parable, created by the admirable Vita Sackville-West

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    Reading the final pages of “All Passion Spent” by Vita Sackville-West I felt her hand take mine – her thoughts and emotions connecting us. What tired analogy can I use to describe the subtle sublimity with which this artist has communicated the grace and depth of spirit, the very character of Lady Slane? I know it is early, having only just finished reading the book, but this is a book that will stay with me – is now a part of me – it is an event in my life – it happened to me. It has elements o Reading the final pages of “All Passion Spent” by Vita Sackville-West I felt her hand take mine – her thoughts and emotions connecting us. What tired analogy can I use to describe the subtle sublimity with which this artist has communicated the grace and depth of spirit, the very character of Lady Slane? I know it is early, having only just finished reading the book, but this is a book that will stay with me – is now a part of me – it is an event in my life – it happened to me. It has elements of other books that have touched me – there is a sense of breaking free of emotional repression as in “The Enchanted April,” of rejuvenation of spirit as in “A Month in the Country,” of reflecting on the events of a long life as in “Gilead,” but the novel that kept coming to mind was “A Room with a View.” What if Lucy had married Cecil? Not that Cecil was political like Lord Slane, but certainly he was dominating in his opinions and one could see Lucy’s individuality shrivel into subservience – atrophy without expression, or cower in the fear of contradiction or condescension. If only Lady Slane had spoken to Mr. Emerson how different her life would have been. Like the Forster work there are a number of truly memorable characters such as Mr. FitzGeorge, Mr. Gosheron and Mr. Bucktrout, who I think would get along with Mr. Emerson and our other friends in Tunbridge Wells. And then there is the physical writing – rarely have I highlighted as many sentences and paragraphs. Arresting – her phrasing, her use of language – it was musical, lyrical – one simply must stop to appreciate such uncommon articulation – like wandering in a museum and encountering a painting that takes your breath away, that speaks to your secret self. One needs to sit a minute and reflect – to savor – to digest. People who don’t appreciate art cannot know the profound effect that it has on those that do. I read the final pages through tears and when Mr. Bucktrout observed: “She considered the lilies of the field, Mr. Gosheron” I became quite undone.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This was a great read - I bought it in a pack of 10 from Book People. All good reads I would think. This is the story of an 88 year old woman who, when her husband dies, decides she can finally live her own life as she wants. Much to the horror of her children, who are 60 or 70 years old ! The characters are very strong. She has most affection for her son Kay. I didnt completely agree with the review that was written inside the book, unfortunately at the start so I read it first. I would say it is This was a great read - I bought it in a pack of 10 from Book People. All good reads I would think. This is the story of an 88 year old woman who, when her husband dies, decides she can finally live her own life as she wants. Much to the horror of her children, who are 60 or 70 years old ! The characters are very strong. She has most affection for her son Kay. I didnt completely agree with the review that was written inside the book, unfortunately at the start so I read it first. I would say it is not only a book about women's liberation but it is also how the upper classes were very trapped in their destinies in those days. It is by far the best book I have read for a while though and there is a lot to discuss as well as just to enjoy. I hope people start buying it as I have been so disappointed by all the hyped up modern books that have come out and been recommended recently. (Apart from Arthur and George that is !!)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    OK, I read this years ago when I was reading loads of British women who flourished in that era... And liked it OK. I'm only reviewing it now because it came up as a recommendation here on GR, and I get annoyed when it recommends books that I've read... Haha. One thing that seems to have stuck with me about this book is that I was annoyed by the general feeling of everything being in the protagonist's past and she has no more real "oomph" left to put into things. I hope when I'm an old lady I'm ki OK, I read this years ago when I was reading loads of British women who flourished in that era... And liked it OK. I'm only reviewing it now because it came up as a recommendation here on GR, and I get annoyed when it recommends books that I've read... Haha. One thing that seems to have stuck with me about this book is that I was annoyed by the general feeling of everything being in the protagonist's past and she has no more real "oomph" left to put into things. I hope when I'm an old lady I'm kicking up my heels a bit more. Maybe I like the idea of Vita Sackville-West better than I like books that I've read by her. I probably liked Seducers in Ecuador and The Heir better. In fact, I'm going to blather about that one next.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    The Lady Slane’s husband dies at the ripe age of 92, leaving her a widow with a small pension, six children (all over the age of 60), and innumerable grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Imagine her family’s surprise when this venerable and venerated old woman takes up a small house in London and asks her relatives not to visit her. It’s a quiet, beautifully told vignette of a woman’s last year of life. She had dreamt of being a painter, and retains an artist’s eye, but subsumed herself in her The Lady Slane’s husband dies at the ripe age of 92, leaving her a widow with a small pension, six children (all over the age of 60), and innumerable grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Imagine her family’s surprise when this venerable and venerated old woman takes up a small house in London and asks her relatives not to visit her. It’s a quiet, beautifully told vignette of a woman’s last year of life. She had dreamt of being a painter, and retains an artist’s eye, but subsumed herself in her husband and children, as was expected of her, rather than buck convention. It’s a tragedy, but society is not blamed so much as her own love for her late husband.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I watched the DVD with the divine Wendy Hiller and decided I needed to read the book again. What would Vita's life have been like if she could have inherited Knole? No books, no poems, no Sissinghurst? A home of one's own is so central to her work and it all comes from losing the one that meant the most to her. The subtext is always the real story with her. I watched the DVD with the divine Wendy Hiller and decided I needed to read the book again. What would Vita's life have been like if she could have inherited Knole? No books, no poems, no Sissinghurst? A home of one's own is so central to her work and it all comes from losing the one that meant the most to her. The subtext is always the real story with her.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  27. 4 out of 5

    D

    Boring because very predictable, with cardboard characters. The last part is an embarrassing unreasoned statement in favor of artists as being special and superior to mere mortals.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    This was wonderful! Touching and sad, this is a quietly subversive call to female emancipation and eccentricity, whoop.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    I realized, about five pages in, that I’d read Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent (1931) some years ago. Never mind; although I remembered the general gist and various events as I reached them, I’d forgotten the details. There really isn’t much of a plot: Lady Slane, after a very grand life as Prime Minister’s wife, Vicereine of India and the jewel-laden hostess tagging along as her husband serves in other important Imperial posts, is widowed at eighty-eight. What is to be done with Mother? I realized, about five pages in, that I’d read Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent (1931) some years ago. Never mind; although I remembered the general gist and various events as I reached them, I’d forgotten the details. There really isn’t much of a plot: Lady Slane, after a very grand life as Prime Minister’s wife, Vicereine of India and the jewel-laden hostess tagging along as her husband serves in other important Imperial posts, is widowed at eighty-eight. What is to be done with Mother? ask her unpleasant children, themselves already in their sixties. Mother, to their horror, has her own ideas, chief among which is seclusion in her own home in a part of London distant from them. Once installed there, she engages in various meditations on her life, including memories of her youth, when hers were thoughts of nothing less than escape and disguise, a changed name, a travestied sex, and freedom in some foreign city […] Those ringlets would drop from the scissors […] that fichu would be replaced by a shirt – and here, the fingers felt for the knot of a tie; those skirts would be kicked forever aside … She had dreamt of becoming an artist but – here we start to see APS as a novelization of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One's Own – despite her wealth and position and happy marriage, the young bride discovers that no space is allowed for a studio or time given for serious artistic endeavour. She comes to understand her own self-betrayal most fully through her conversations with an elderly eccentric, FitzGeorge, the only person to discern her tragedy clearly. The message appears to be that it’s best to abandon the ‘things of this world’ in order to pursue one’s true calling – although Lady Slane’s chosen frugality is not that of millions of other British people in 1931: a three-bedroomed Georgian house in Hampstead! (Some awareness of this is belatedly acknowledged when the protagonist hears the reminiscences of her elderly French maid, Genoux.) However, despite its being a novel with a moral but not much action, All Passion Spent is enlivened by some lovely writing and a number of comic or semi-comic characters; I found it in many ways a gently agreeable read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alysia

    This was such a lovely surprise. I went into this not knowing much about Sackville-West other than her relationship to Woolf. Such a quiet and powerful work about the consequences of living a life not true to yourself. Reminded me a great deal of The Enchanted April but is less saccharine. I think this more of a 3.5 stars but it's just so lovely. This was such a lovely surprise. I went into this not knowing much about Sackville-West other than her relationship to Woolf. Such a quiet and powerful work about the consequences of living a life not true to yourself. Reminded me a great deal of The Enchanted April but is less saccharine. I think this more of a 3.5 stars but it's just so lovely.

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