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From lavish palace for Elizabethan nobles to dreary jailhouse for 18th-century prisoners of war, from well-manicured country house for a string of landed families to weed-choked ruin, Sissinghurst, in Kent, has become one of the most illustrious estates in England - and its future may prove to be just as intriguing as its past.
In the 1930s, English poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, acquired land that had once been owned by Vita's ancestors. Together they created elaborate gardens filled with roses, apple trees, vivid flowers, and scenic paths lined with hedges and pink brick walls.
Vita, a gardening correspondent for the Observer and a close friend of Virginia Woolf, opened Sissinghurst to the public. But the thriving working farm began to change after her death. Her son, Nigel, instituted sweeping changes, including transferring ownership of the estate to Britain's National Trust in 1967 to avoid extensive taxation. For author Adam Nicolson, the grandson of Harold and Vita, Sissinghurst was always more than a tourist attraction; it was his home. As a boy, Nicolson hiked the same trails that Roman conquerors walked centuries before.
With wistful imagination, fascination with natural beauty, and connection to the land, Nicolson has returned home to restore Sissinghurst's glory. His journey to recreate a sustainable and functioning farm, despite resistance from the National Trust, makes for a compelling memoir of family, history, and the powerful relationship between people and nature.
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By Rosemary on 04-07-17
A fascinating and profound work
In this astonishing documentary journal, Adam Nicolson exceeds his richly endowed family's writing history and puts down a philosophy you won't read anywhere else. Except perhaps in the poems of Wendell Berry. It is the destruction of life as it worked pretty well in our older world, supplanted by modern unsustainable agribusinesses and planned public spaces. It says without saying what strip malls and massive, faceless places have done to us. In his small corner of England Adam Nicholson has reversed and healed this as best he could with open heart, intelligence and a listening ear to others. An unexpected pleasure and profound addition to current literature on the subject.