Synopses & Reviews
A bestselling author's passionate memoir about restoring life to one of the world's greatest gardens
Sissinghurst Castle is a jewel in the English countryside. Its chief attraction is its celebrated garden, designed in the 1930s by the poet Vita Sackville-West, lover of Virginia Woolf. As a boy, Adam Nicolson, Sackville-West's grandson, spent his days romping through Sissinghurst's woods, streams, and fields. In this book, he returns to the place of his bucolic youth and finds that the estate, now operated by Britain's National Trust, has lost something precious. It is still unquestionably a place of calm and beauty but, he asks, where is the working farm, the orchards, the cattle and sheep? Nicolson convinces the Trust to embrace a simple idea: Grow lunch for the two hundred thousand annual visitors.
Sissinghurst is a personal biography of a place and an inspiring story of one man's quest to return a remarkable landscape to its best, most useful purpose. Nicolson is an entertaining and charming writer and this book will capture fans of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
"Nicolson, grandson of poet Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson best known, perhaps for being Virginia Woolf's lover grew up in the 1960s at Sissinghurst, the ruined castle where Sackville-West created her renowned gardens in the 1930s. The author's father Nigel gave the estate to the National Trust in 1967, and when Nicholson came back to live there after his father, Nigel, died in 2004, he embarked on a campaign to 'revive a landscape that had forgotten its past.' It's through this lens of love for its past and passion for its future that Nicholson relates the story of his quest, embedding it in a history of Sissinghurst, beginning in its origins in clay, forest, and pastures and the 'custom of Kent' a unique culture of self-reliant men and women who depended on the land rather than on a lord following through its transformation into a prison for French prisoners of war in the 18th century and its 20th-century revitalization by Vita and Harold. Nicholson's love of language is equal to his love of the land, and his poetic prose evokes the richness of the landscape he strives to save." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In his quest to restore his family home of Sissinghurst to its rightful place as a working farm and productive part of the England's food web, Nicolson creates a flawless narrative of enchantment, a bricolage of impermeable clay, crumbling castles, tucked away wildwoods, civic inertia, medieval history and a haunting childhood, as magical a work of art as his grandmother Vita Sackville-West's white garden."
-Paul Hawken, Author of Blessed Unrest and The Ecology of Commerce
"To see Vita Sackville-West's legendary garden return to life as an edible landscape fills me with hope. Adam Nicolson's determination to restore a working farm in complete harmony with one of the world's most famous and beautiful gardens is faithful not only to the memory of his family but also to the memory of the land itself. Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History has all the elements of a wonderful drama, but ultimately its message about the importance of good stewardship of the land and of nourishing the community prevails. It is clear that like his famous grandmother, Nicolson is a scribe of The Land."
-Alice Waters, Founder of Chez Panisse and Author of The Art of Simple Food and many Chez Panisse cookbooks
"This wise and tender book, unsentimentally devoted to the story of one tiny corner of old England, should touch each one of us who loves the wild magic that is land, landscape and the creatures that live there. On one level Sissinghurst is a charming portrait of an ancient and beautiful house in Kent; on another a poignant and amusing portrait of the English class system at full gallop. Most important, though, it is a clarion call for the preservation of all that is good, sensible and environmentally prudent about the farming ways of old, a cry that will linger for a long, long while."
-Simon Winchester, Author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map that Changed the World, and Krakatoa
Praise from the UK for Sissinghurst
"Unusual, impassioned and lucidly written."
"Excellent...A clear-eyed picture."
"A wonderful book."
"An expert at conveying the 'stuff' of place, [Adam] Nicolson is equally good with people...As Nicolson understands, places tell us about the people who walked them and the dreams they pursued."
-Times Literary Supplement
This inspiring story details one man's quest to return a remarkable landscape to its best, most useful purpose. Nicolson is an entertaining and charming writer and this book will capture fans of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Barbara Kingsolver.
About the Author
Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel, and the environment, including Seize the Fire, Quarrel with the King, and the New York Times bestseller God's Secretaries. He is the winner of the Royal Society of London's William Heineman Prize and the Ondaatje Prize and lives at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England.