Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
Vita Sackville-West was the great friend (lover) of Virginia Woolf, and this book explores themes similar to those in Woolf's A Room of One's Own. It's beautifully written, totally engaging, and even though it was published in 1931, inspiring and relevant.
Here, the "admirably dutiful" life of eighty-eight year old Lady Slane is examined. For decades she has remained an exemplary wife to her statesman husband, and splendid mother to her children... now well into middle age themselves. Her own youthful dreams of being an artist have been forgotten in the expectation of others, and of society.
Now, in widowhood, Lady Slane quietly, gently and resolutely defies expectations. She declines the plans her six rather pompous children have made for her and takes a small but charming house in Hampstead, where she chooses to live independently and free from her past -- to enjoy, as she says, repose.
In this small house, which echoes much of the Bloomsbury occupations of gardening, art and domesticity, Lady Slane lives with Genoux, her French maid and is visited by Mr. Bucktrout, her house agent, who believes his mathematical calculations reveal the imminent end of the world; a coffin maker who imagines what people might look like dead in order to discern their true character, and Mr. FitzGeorge, an eccentric millionaire collector who fell in love with Lady Slane many years ago in India.
Amidst this collection of eccentrics Lady Slane examines her past, recalls the dreams of her youth and at last, with one last "strange and lovely thing," acts upon the passion she abandoned seventy years earlier to the narrow conventions of a proper Victorian marriage.
A woman's freedom to choose is, Sackville-West shows us, what allows her to fully realize her own life.