All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West: Book Review

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West Book Cover

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All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West Book Cover
Title: All Passion Spent

My Synopsis:

After a life spent doing everything a woman is expected to do–marrying, having children, being a perfect helpmeet to her ambitious husband–Lady Slane decides to only please herself when she is widowed at the age of 88. Once her husband’s funeral is over, she announces that she is not going to spend her remaining days living with her children, as they wish, but is instead going to rent a charming house that caught her eye thirty years ago.

She rents the house and fills it with a select group of new friends who suit her quiet, introspective nature. She reflects on the life she has lived and dreams of what might have been if she had been free to follow her own desires as a young woman.

My Review:

I’m not entirely sure what I expected when I started this book, but it’s not what I got, and that was a pleasant surprise for me.

Lady Slane is a delightful creature and I know she and I would be friends if she were real. She’s always been dutiful to her family but she has a rich inner landscape. She draws eccentrics to herself and values their friendship. She takes a quiet, devilish pleasure in poking at four of her six children–the four who are bossy, unimaginative, cheap beyond all reason, and cantankerous.

The book takes a feminist slant, most overtly in the middle section, when Lady Slane reflects on her past. She never actually chose the life she lived. It was all just sort of arranged for her. No one consulted her about her wants and needs. She didn’t even have the vocabulary to express her desires for a different life because she didn’t know any women who seemed to want to be anything other than a wife or mother.

I know the book was eminently quotable, about both aging gracefully and feminism, but I honestly just read for the pleasure and didn’t mark anything. You’ll just have to take my word that Sackville-West is a beautiful, thoughtful writer.

I read this on my Kindle and I’m glad I did. Lady Slane’s maid is French and speaks almost exclusively in French. Nothing she says is terribly important for furthering the story, but I did like having the option to highlight her sentences and translate them.

If you’re in the mood for a contemplative book with a delightful character who shares some profound thoughts about aging, mortality, and feminism, this will absolutely fit the bill. I’m so glad I picked it up.

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  1. I think this is great! For some reason, it reminds me of Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series (though I suppose that’s a lot funnier/ more slapstick): “Lady Slane decides to only please herself”. Words to live by!

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