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110 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
As a great collector of all things Vita Sackville-West, Harold Nicolson and Sissinghurst, I leapt on this book as it appeared. But did I really need it? Surely I have read everything printed about Sissinghurst, Vita and Harold, and visited the garden twice, what could it give me? Well for a start Adam Nicolson writes with more facility, imagination and poetry than either...
Published on 18 Nov 2008 by Robert Ray

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven
Having read widely about Vita Sackville-West, her husband, her lovers, her connection with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set, and also having a fascination with reclaiming old houses and gardens I was prepared to love this book, and some parts were indeed well-written and worth reading: the early history of the landscape where Sissinghurst now lies, the Saxon...
Published on 29 Nov 2009 by bluecougar25


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110 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, 18 Nov 2008
By 
Robert Ray (Sassafras, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As a great collector of all things Vita Sackville-West, Harold Nicolson and Sissinghurst, I leapt on this book as it appeared. But did I really need it? Surely I have read everything printed about Sissinghurst, Vita and Harold, and visited the garden twice, what could it give me? Well for a start Adam Nicolson writes with more facility, imagination and poetry than either of his famous grand parents. A poetic grace, so beautifully expressed, that Vita would have killed to have had. Yes this is prose and not poetry, but Nicolson, like Virginia Woolf can make prose sound like poetry. In this book Nicolson re-examines Sissinghurst from its historic beginnings, to its "decline" to a tourist attraction. His dealings with the National Trust are fascinating, and believable. I found touching his writing of his father, Nigel, Harold and Vita's second son. Nigel, as a son of a most unconventional marriage, it is no wonder his world was really quite dysfunctional. I rather think the conservative Vita, Harold and Nigel would rather be alarmed at what most of Adam has written. For this reason the book is fascinating.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing is genetical too, 18 Nov 2010
By 
J. H. Kirchner "Kirchner1234" (Houten, Niederlande) - See all my reviews
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About 12 years ago my wife and I stayed a week in the B&B Sissinghurst Castle Farm nextdoor to the actual garden. Being a member of the National trust we could visit every day just before closing time. Between 4 and 5 it was generally very quiet. Most coaches had gone. And the majority of other visitors were either having tea or browsing through the shop buying mementoes. We subsequently have great memories of Sissinghurst. Walking in the cornfields surrounding it at night added a dimension we will not easily forget. Not to speak of the crooked floors and the wonderful breakfasts in the B&B. Recent reading about all this brings back many happy memories. But not only that. We share Adam Nicolson's thoughts and feelings about it too. Sissinghurst is/was a timecapsule that needed a fresh approach. With his wonderful book he has drawn attention to this and I must say: In a blooming way! I found it a thrill to read and thinks he is just as talented as his relatives were. Perhaps good writing is in the genes after all... And to get a complete picture perhaps the readers of this review should also read A portrait of a marriage, The Garden and The Edwardians. Each of these books is a complement to this great Adam Nicolson book. I immediately ordered three other titles...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Read book, 20 April 2010
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As of 2008, Adam Nicholson turned 45. He has been living in the part of Elizabethan manor house in Sissinghurst Castle since his birth. He clearly remembers his grandparents, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson, who were the founders of Sissinghurst Garden, and pieces of furniture which Vita had brought from the Knole House. The history of Sissinghurst dates back the 16th century and Adam Nicholson includes a number of letters, documents, and images of coins and treasures, part of which were broken, which would be relevant to the development of Sissinghurst in the book. The collection of documents include the survey of shrubs, plants, and trees grown in and around Sissinghurst between the 16th and 17th century, and this evidence helped Vita and Harold restore the cottage garden which are beautifully harmonised with the poignant ruins of Elizabethan manor house. He throughly discovered the history of Sissinghurst and buildings and farm near Sissinhurst, describes the events and incidents, and conveys the insights of the charming house, furniture which Vita used, formal garden. He has recruited a number of volunteer staff, appreciates their hard work and discloses his ambition, i.e. further development on the extensive farmland and woodland, and integration of the farmland and historic house and garden.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric, 3 April 2009
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J. Thorpe (UK) - See all my reviews
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A beautifully written, atmospheric book which took me back to an idyllic, hot summer's day at Sissinghurst. Mr Nicholson portrays the frustrations of trying to cope with a treasured posession which is owned by someone else with great 'diplomacy'. An absorbing and relaxing read...
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super absorbing read, 27 Dec 2008
By 
Potterywhizz (Dorset) - See all my reviews
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I own every book Adam Nicolson has written. He writes beautiful prose and he writes with great sincerity and feeling. This was another book in the same glorious tradition and immensely enjoyable. Precious few authors can write as well as this
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original Sissinghurst Restored?, 9 Nov 2009
By 
Elspeth (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History (Paperback)
An extremely interesting history of Sissinghurst from its creation thro the hands of the gardeners of Vita Sackville West & Harold Nicholson to the plans which their grandson Adam Nicolson is attempting to get the Natiooanl Trust to accept. That the land should be farmed again - with some of the produce being sold in the House restaurant. An up hill task to persuade the NT that this should be done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing to read after the very disappointing TV series., 14 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History (Paperback)
The TV series was undignified. Adam attempts to negotiate with the National Trust, staff and other interested parties to reunite Sissinghurst estate and castle was not welcomed with open arms. The book explains his approach and belief it could be done and could work. It's a shame he wasn't able to succeed; perhaps he will in the future. Having known and loved Sissinghurst all my life I enjoyed reading its unfinished history and hopes for the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read., 22 Jun 2010
This review is from: Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History (Paperback)
I absolutely loved this book. It is beautifully written and at the same time helps you to understand so much about history, botany and agriculture. I now want to visit the gardens and see the place for myself but it has also given me insight into other similar projects and is teaching me (I am reading it slowly) to open my eyes and really see.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garden History., 13 Nov 2009
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This review is from: Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History (Paperback)
Great for frustrated gardeners to read on a winter day when home gardening has come to a stop.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, 29 Nov 2009
This review is from: Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History (Paperback)
Having read widely about Vita Sackville-West, her husband, her lovers, her connection with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set, and also having a fascination with reclaiming old houses and gardens I was prepared to love this book, and some parts were indeed well-written and worth reading: the early history of the landscape where Sissinghurst now lies, the Saxon placenames that still survive after a thousand years describing very much the geography and soil types there today and the wide range of woodland and marshy areas that make the Weald so unique. Adam Nicolson's early memories of a place he clearly adores were also moving and beautifully described.. at least at first, though the prose became a little purple after the first few pages and the contrast with his later family life was jarring (and rather saddening).

What I was expecting from this book however, and did not find, was much detail of the process required to reclaim Sissinghurst from a rather over-sanitised National Trust version to something akin to its historical self - I thought there would be long, fascinating accounts of decisions made about soil and planting, the problems involved in reclaiming meadowland, ideas on seed mixes and farming techniques and the daily efforts involved. What I found was much detail about the problems of persuading the National Trust to try something new, greatly involved and ultimately dry historical details about exactly who did what at every step of the way from Sissinghurst's initial appearance in records to the point that Vita fell in love with it, and much writing and re-writing of Vita, Harold and Nigel's lives, opinions of each other, with Adam's view of same, none of which proved as illuminating or enjoyable as the various letters and accounts already published.

This was followed by a rather rambling look at the current state of agricultural practice and how plans for the future need to be taken into account, be it organic or science-driven - this I presume is the "extended version", but it seemed rather woolly and in need of editing.

Far from a look at how Sissinghurst's past is being reclaimed for a sustainable and more suitable future, this is more of a memoir with much reference to who said what and when, that rather peters out in the end - I suppose because the project is still underway, but a list of things achieved and things still needing doing is a rather meagre conclusion to a project the history and impetus behind which have taken up so many, many pages.

The author has an engaging style, when not buried under endless detail, and the book is far from dry, but very uneven: it added somewhat to my knowledge, but left me wanting more details about the very subject it was supposed to cover! I greatly admire Adam's goals and his vision for Sissinghurst and hope for another book a few years down the line that gardens more and meanders less.
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Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History
Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson (Paperback - 3 Sep 2009)
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