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All Passion Spent | [Vita Sackville-West]

All Passion Spent

In 1860, as an unmarried girl of 17, Lady Slane nurtures a secret, burning ambition – to become an artist. She becomes, instead, the wife of a great statesman, Henry, the first Earl of Slane, and the mother of six children. Seventy years later, released by widowhood, she abandons the family home in Elm Park Gardens much to the dismay of her pompous sons and daughters.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1860, as an unmarried girl of 17, Lady Slane nurtures a secret, burning ambition – to become an artist. She becomes, instead, the wife of a great statesman, Henry, the first Earl of Slane, and the mother of six children.

Seventy years later, released by widowhood, she abandons the family home in Elm Park Gardens - much to the dismay of her pompous sons and daughters - for a tiny house in Hampstead. Here she recollects the dreams of youth, and revels in her newfound freedom with her odd assortment of companions

©1931 Nigel Nicolson (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Witty and charming and graceful and brilliant." (Chicago Tribune)

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  •  
    Cariola Chambersburg, PA USA 03-29-13
    Cariola Chambersburg, PA USA 03-29-13 Member Since 2005

    malfi

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Aging Gracefully"

    Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I really loved this book. After the death of her husband, 88-year old Lady Slane shocks her children by announcing that she plans to leave the family estate and rent a house in Hampstead Heath--a house that holds many fond memories of her younger days. Even more shocking, she dictates that none of her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren may visit without an express appointment (and those are given infrequently). As a woman who has spent her entire life pleasing others and doing what they expected of her, she finally decides to live as pleases herself. She recalls her early dreams of becoming a painter, and how those dreams were squelched by a proposal that everyone else thought was a brilliant triumph--even though the 18-year old Deborah was not convinced that she was really in love or that she was ready to give up her own independence and aspirations. Looking back on her life, she recalls moments of happiness, moments when she did indeed love (or at least appreciate) her husband and felt fleeting moments of affection for the children who, for the most part, turned out to be disappointments. But as she moves towards death, Lady Slane decides that, while there is still a little time left, she need please no one but herself.

    Lately, I've been thinking more and more about the time wasted in the past and the time that I have remaining to make something of my life, and, in that regard, this novel really touched home. The novel is brilliantly read by Wendy Hiller, who played Lady Slane in the TV adaptation. It's a quiet, contemplative book, but one well worth one's time. Vita Sackville-West gives us a portrait of aging that goes far beyond the mourning the loss of youth and beauty to ask significant questions about selfhood and the meaning of life itself.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Chambersburg, PA, United States 02-26-11
    Deborah Chambersburg, PA, United States 02-26-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Charming Book about Aging"

    Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I really loved this book. After the death of her husband, 88-year old Lady Slane shocks her children by announcing that she plans to leave the family estate and rent a house in Hampstead Heath--a house that holds many fond memories of her younger days. Even more shocking, she dictates that none of her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren may visit without an express appointment (and those are given infrequently). As a woman who has spent her entire life pleasing others and doing what they expected of her, she finally decides to live as pleases herself. She recalls her early dreams of becoming a painter, and how those dreams were squelched by a proposal that everyone else thought was a brilliant triumph--even though the 18-year old Deborah was not convinced that she was really in love or that she was ready to give up her own independence and aspirations. Looking back on her life, she recalls moments of happiness, moments when she did indeed love (or at least appreciate) her husband and felt fleeting moments of affection for the children who, for the most part, turned out to be disappointments. But as she moves towards death, Lady Slane decides that, while there is still a little time left, she need please no one but herself.

    Lately, I've been thinking more and more about the time wasted in the past and the time that I have remaining to make something of my life, and, in that regard, this novel really touched home. I listened to it on audio, brilliantly read by Wendy Hiller, who played Lady Slane in the TV adaptation. It's a quiet, contemplative book, but one well worth one's time. Vita Sackville-West gives us a portrait of aging that goes far beyond the mourning the loss of youth and beauty to ask significant questions about selfhood and the meaning of life itself.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-24-12
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-24-12 Member Since 2011

    Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!

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    "And calm of mind, all passions spent."

    “On the contrary, said Lady Slane, that is another thing about which I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to become completely self indulgent. I’m going to wallow in old age. No grand-children, they’re 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 will 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.”

    “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 children and their spouses set about determining how she will spend the rest of her life: she will divide her time between each couple, living in their homes and contributing to the expenses in a manner which will be amply profitable to them. But 88 year-old Deborah, who has always effaced herself behind her husband, the former Viceroy of India and a member of the House of Lords, 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 house, 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, who among her many passionate love affairs, famously had Virginia Woolf as a lover, here explores how a woman who has both money and rather more than a simple room of her own might choose to live out her final years, having the ability to free herself of social constraints. 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. 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.




    * These quotes were transcribed from the audiobook version and as such are not fully accurate. For instance, the punctuation was pure guesswork, and I hope Vita Sackville-West isn’t spinning in her grave for the liberties I took, as I certainly mean no disrespect.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Maple Park, IL, United States 01-31-11
    Richard Maple Park, IL, United States 01-31-11 Member Since 2001
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    "Simply a delight"

    This book from Vita Sackville-West is a gem, and Wendy Hiller is priceless. (She plays Lady Slane in the BBC TV presentation of All Passion Spent and her reading of the book echoes that performance.) Before the audiobook came to Audible, I searched far and wide and finally found a tape cassette version online. But once it was available digitally, I had to have it.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Washington, DC, United States 12-22-10
    John Washington, DC, United States 12-22-10
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    "A fine neglected novel. A superlative reading."

    This fine novel is by turns tough and very soft. Although it is unsentimental about what a recently widowed woman may feel (or not feel) for her grown children, it is very soft in its presentation of a seductive dream vision of old age. Perhaps it is mostly about an 88-year-old wife and mother (her husband was both Viceroy to India and the British Prime Minister) discovering, finally, what it is to be single. It is good for her, this liberating final voyage. Many fine touches on Lady Slane’s relationship with her children, with her lifelong maid Genoux, with late-achieved privacy, with unexpected new friends, with her soul-mate great-granddaughter, and with an old man who appears after fifty years and tells her that they met in India when they both were very young. The reading by a herself elderly Wendy Hiller (Shaw’s original PYGMALION in her youth) could not be surpassed. So far I have recommended this book (three print readings, three Audibles) to six friends. All have made a special point of thanking me.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Hemet, CA, United States 05-29-12
    Kathleen Hemet, CA, United States 05-29-12
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    "If you saw the Masterpiece Theatre version..."

    I was looking for something to help me in my Downton Abbey withdrawal & chose this; I had forgotten that PBS had presented a version on Masterpiece Theatre several years ago with the narrator, Wendy Hiller, as the star, which I saw. She is wonderful as narrator but I really got tired of the story about half way through & wish I hadn't bothered. Ms. Sackville West wrote this c. 1930 & she is a good writer, I just wish I hadn't wasted a credit on it. This might work as something to send you off to sleep at night, though.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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