Book Review: All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Sentimentality, choices not taken and hope merged in this little classic. After the death of her husband, Lady Slane, in her late eighties, moved out of the London family home, to the surprise of her children, and decided to spend her remaining days away from the bustle and clamor of her old life.

Vita Sackville-West, like her friend V. Woolf, echoed the inevitable ends of women in this thoughtful novel. By way of nostalgia, she expressed the ruminations of a life found wanting. She spoke further of how easily women’s lives (or selves) could be swallowed up in the wake of marriage, children and social responsibilities, their true desires forgotten and set aside as they get caught up in a current much stronger than them.

I was a bit surprised for it wasn’t what I expected all along. Noting the tone of wryness in the beginning, I thought it’ll be a satire. Then there was a hint of romance so I waited for it. But as I read further on, I discovered it was more than that. The book felt like it drew out thoughts I had philosophized in my head from time to time, thoughts I could not articulate very well and Vita wrote them in a plain easy manner with such delicate metaphors. She seemed to peek inside our souls and laid open our regrets and yearnings.

I liked immensely the more eccentric characters like Edith the youngest daughter (whose view of the world is rather on point but she struggles in making people around her understand), Mr. Gosheron and perhaps even Mr. Bucktrout, last name and all. In the end I was left with a dull melancholy mixed with a flicker of hope but it was negated somewhat with subtle bristling affectation as the last dialogues were uttered. Filled with wisdom and musings, it allows us to see the world with its sometimes inaccurate perception, with its facades that hid broken spirits.

As a novel that engages a lot of discussion on women, All Passion Spent is a good companion to Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes.

This review is part of my original post from our book blog, Deluged with Books.


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