VITA'S OTHER WORLD: A Gardening Biography of Vita Sackville-West by Jane Brown

VITA'S OTHER WORLD: A Gardening Biography of Vita Sackville-West

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KIRKUS REVIEW

No doubt published with ever-voracious Bloomsbury fans in mind, this antiquarian study is exactly what it says it is: the story of a life among flowers. Which is not as silly as it sounds, for when Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) wasn't writing forgettable books or bed-hopping in Bloomsbury, she was busy tending some of the century's freest gardens. Well-illustrated with over 100 fine photos--many by Vita herself--this slightly dotty work takes as its thesis: ""a good garden can only be created from deep within memories and beliefs."" For Vita, such memories included the splendid Sackville estate, Knole, in the family since the 17th century, and where Vita grew up amidst its legendary garden. Included also in her floral past were her early travels to Paris, Florence, and Moscow, and later, with her husband, the diplomat Harold Nicolson, to more exotic locales such as Teheran and Constantinople. Together with Nicholson, who shared her twin beliefs in the transcendent powers of poetry and flowers, Vita designed the gardens at Long Barn, their first home. But they were a mere trifle compared to the triumphant grounds at Sissinghurst, the 16th-century castle in Kent to which the Nicholsons repaired in early middle-age. More interested in garden history than literary criticism or gossip (Bloomsbury fans take note!), Brown would just as soon forget the indiscreet Bloomsbury poet and celebrate the ""fat and indolent country matron"" of Sissinghurst. Vita created there a beautiful and productive garden, with its clever geometry, its sharp hedges and narrow walks, and its abundance of flowers. Though Brown fails to renew interest in The Garden (1946), Vita's epic poem memorializing Sissinghurst, she does demonstrate that her 14 years of gardening columns for The Observer (collected in four vols.) merit attention for their sound advice and subtle observations. Breathless and heavily padded, this pretty picture book adds little new to our knowledge of Vita or her garden, both already the subjects of more thorough and scholarly treatments.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking