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'ALL PASSION SPENT' by Vita Sackville-West
We were surprised to hear that Vita Sackville-West was such a prolific writer and I don't think I'm the only one who had no idea that she was considered a great poet and had won awards for her poetry. Her own life was extremely colourful and knowing that this book dips into her own experiences perhaps we were all wondering how radical the book would be. Instead we found a gentle read, poignant and very honest but with some very witty inclusions.
The book is divided into three sections and opens with the recently widowed Lady Slane, now 88, listening to her children discussing their plans for her. To their surprise, after years of being the meek wife and mother, she discloses her own plans for her future and refuses to let them interfere at all. The second section explores Lady Slane's own memories, disappointments and sacrifices as she adapts to her new surroundings, and the last section is an extension of her relationship with the people who now play a large part in her life. In the words of one member 'An existence ..... had shrunk to the contentment of colour, of liberal companionship and the surrounds of Hampstead village...' . The main character was beautifully drawn and believable and most felt sympathy for her. The sections come together very well and the novel ends on an uplifting note.
This book was an enormous success but not with every member of the group. One disliked it intensely, not the writing which she agreed was beautiful , but the main character annoyed her so much she almost threw the book at the wall. She could not tolerate what she saw as Lady Shane's total disregard for her children and utter inability to forge her own life in an existence that in most ways was very privileged.
This is what makes a good book group - a discussion where we don't all agree. I think what we did all agree on was that 'All Passions Spent' is a beautifully written and elegaic novel.