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Vita - The Life of Vita Sackville-West [Paperback]

Victoria Glendinning
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2005

' What each of us would look for in an ideal future biographer is what each of us looks for in an ideal doctor: sympathy, trustfulness and acute powers of diagnosis. All these three qualities are here present. Vita would undoubtedly have shared our approval and gratitude' Sunday Telegraph

Vita Sackville-West was a vital, gifted and complex woman. A dedicated writer, she made her mark as poet, novelist, biographer, travel writer, journalist and broadcaster. She was also one of the most influential English gardeners of the century, creating with her husband the famous gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent.

Vita documents her extraordinary life, focusing on her relationships with Violet Trefusis, Virginia Woolf, her husband, and her two sons together with her unpublicised love affairs. Vita was determined to be more than just a married woman; her passionate, secretive character, and the strains, mistakes and achievements of her remarkable life makes " Vita" a absorbing and disturbing book.



Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix Orion; Reissue edition (2 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753819260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753819265
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 596,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

The life of Vita Sackville-West, a key member of the Bloomsbury set and lover of Virginia Woolf

About the Author

Victoria Glendinning is a freelance writer, well-known for her successful biographies and novels. She has won many prizes including the Whitbread Prize for Biography twice, the Duff Cooper Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. She is also President of English PEN and a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London, but travels widely, particularly to Provence and south-west Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FINDING EQUILIBRIUM : VITA SACKVILLE-WEST 5 Aug 2007
By Phillysound2 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is an absorbing, meticulous biography of Vita Sackville-West. It is written with objectivity and so Glendinning does not judge or come to any broad conclusions about Vita; she leaves that to the reader. She expects the reader to go elsewhere to learn more about the other actors including Harold Nicolson. I felt there could have been more about the fundamental, crucial change in Vita and her marriage to Harold after her love affair with Violet Trefusis. And more about Harold's story to make the whole a bit more balanced. This is my only criticism - basically I would have welcomed an even longer book. However, Glendinning does include a lot (because there is no major biography of her) about Vita's mother; I found a lot of this very entertaining plus it provides important background to Vita's own passionate nature and also her need for equilibrium and Harold.

The book left me with a sense of Vita as a self-centred (not all in a bad way) woman who lived life as far as she could on her terms. Did what she wanted. And broke hearts and even lives with little apparent remorse. She was also kind, passionate, thoughtful and elegant. Maybe her heart had been broken too. At the end of the book I felt ambivalent about her.

Last week I visited Sissinghurst. The book came to life. I saw the haven of gorgeous large gardens that were wrought, by day, through hard manual work over many years; the haven of the tower room where Vita worked, by night, in solitude writing and reading. There is the surrounding privacy cordon of wonderful Kent countryside gradually bought by Vita and Harold over the years. Not much of Vita's energy or money could have been wasted on the ephemeral or purposeless; it was invested in this perfect un-leavable place.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive depiction of an extraordinary life 15 Aug 2005
Format:Paperback
Glendinning's biography is impressive in its scope and detail, and maintains a good pace throughout in dealing with the many different facets of VS-W's extraordinary life. She and her surrounding intimates are admirably painted, giving the reader a clear sense of all the key relationships as they develop throughout her life - including those with the houses (Knole, Long Barn and Sissinghurst).
My only regret is that the book does not occasionally seek to take a long view of its subject's life, to aid understanding by picking out commmon themes or motifs, hence 4-stars. This is however a small quibble for what is a highly entertaining and well-written biography.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable 19 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a superb biography of a most remarkable woman. It is also a portrait of an aristocratic and intellectual society which seems to have virtually passed away. It ought to be reprinted for the benefit of students and historians let alone the general reader. The extraordinary relationships about which the author writes with sympathy and understanding make it as fascinating as any novel.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Bios I've Ever Read 20 Jun 2007
By C. Kaye
Format:Paperback
Victoria Glendinning is superb, and this biography is one of the most splendid things I have ever read. Vita S-W is very much humanized, and her unique relationship with her husband not necessarily explained, but illumined. I did not much care for V S-W - her snobbery set my teeth on edge, and was quite amused that she hung so tightly with another snob, Virgina Woolfe. But even snobs are human beings, and you have to give it to her, yes, she was a very interesting and unique woman.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FINDING EQUILIBRIUM : VITA SACKVILLE-WEST 5 Aug 2007
By Phillysound2 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an absorbing, meticulous biography of Vita Sackville-West. It is written with objectivity and so Glendinning does not judge or come to any broad conclusions about Vita; she leaves that to the reader. She expects the reader to go elsewhere to learn more about the other actors including Harold Nicolson. I felt there could have been more about the fundamental, crucial change in Vita and her marriage to Harold after her consuming love affair with Violet Trefusis. And more about Harold's story to make the whole a bit more balanced. This is my only criticism - basically I would have welcomed an even longer book. However, Glendinning does include a lot (because there is no major biography of her) about Vita's mother; I found a lot of this very entertaining plus it provides important background to Vita's own passionate nature and also her need for equilibrium and Harold.

The book left me with a sense of Vita as a self-centred (not all in a bad way) woman who lived life as far as she could on her terms. Did what she wanted. And broke hearts and even lives with little apparent remorse. She was also kind, passionate, thoughtful and elegant. Maybe her heart had been broken too. At the end of the book I felt ambiguous about her.

Last week I went to Sissinghurst. The book came to life. I saw the haven of gorgeous large gardens that were wrought, by day, through hard manual work over many years; the haven of the tower room where Vita worked, by night, in solitude writing and reading. There is the surrounding privacy cordon of wonderful Kent countryside gradually bought by Vita and Harold over the years. Not much of Vita's energy or money could have been wasted on the ephemeral or purposeless; it was invested in this perfect un-leavable place. I remembered she gave up her trust fund income to work for her living. She worked hard. She didn't waste time on the unproductive; she cut off unruly lovers that threatened her equilibrium. A visit to Knole this last Sunday made me see Vita in her natural romantic surroundings - just like Woolf's Orlando in his vulnerable youth. Despite her losses, and using her advantages Vita became herself, fused her different dimensions as far as she could; she found a certain freedom and a kind of equilibrium. There were a few signs towards the very end of her life ('No Signposts in the Sea'), that she felt she might have got the balance wrong. But there was no guidebook, no signposts for such an individual life. Flaws and all, I've got to appreciate her. She comes from a different planet to me in terms of class and history - but her journey and choices make her fascinating and valid. Victoria Glendinning's biography is excellent but she admits it is not comprehensive. There is more to understand and this book is the most excellent place to start that journey. If you're able to, visit Sissinghurst and Knole - they are where you'll truly find and understand Vita. I enjoyed reading this book and didn't want it to end.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and interesting look at this most intriguing literary woman. 25 Sep 2008
By Beth Mitchum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After watching the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of "Portrait of a Marriage" years ago, I went on a search for more information about the life of Vita Sackville-West. This bio was one of the gems overturned in that quest for treasure. Having only been able to find it in UNCA's library at the time, I was delighted to be able to stumble over it again during a search at Amazon.com. I have now made it a permanent addition to my extensive library of a subject I call "The Three V's." The three V's are: Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf, three women joined via literary and emotional attachment with Vita Sackville-West acting as the hinge.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding scholarship 5 Jun 2008
By Beth Mitchum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I totally loved this book. It was one of the first ones I read about Vita's life after I stumbled upon the BBC broadcast of Portrait of a Marriage. It was thorough and as objective as any biographer/historian can be. I felt as though I knew Vita by the time I was finished. Driftwood
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