Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History

Author(s): Adam Nicolson

World History | Secondhand

A fascinating account from award-winning author, Adam Nicolson, on the history of Nicolson's own national treasure, his family home: Sissinghurst. Sissinghurst is world famous as a place of calm and beauty, a garden slipped into the ruins of a rose-pink Elizabethan palace. But is it entirely what its creators intended? Has its success over the last thirty years come at a price? Is Sissinghurst everything it could be? The story of this piece of land, an estate in the Weald of Kent, is told here for the first time from the very beginning. Adam Nicolson, who now lives there, has uncovered remarkable new findings about its history as a medieval manor and great sixteenth-century house, from the days of its decline as an eighteenth-century prison to a flourishing Victorian farm and on to the creation, by his grandparents Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, of a garden in a weed-strewn wreck. Alongside his recovery of the past, Adam Nicolson wanted something else: for the land at Sissinghurst to live again, to become the landscape of orchards, cattle, fruit and sheep he remembered from his boyhood. Could that living frame of a mixed farm be brought back to what had turned into monochrome fields of chemicalised wheat and oilseed rape? Against the odds, he was going to try. Adam Nicolson has always been a passionate writer about landscape and buildings, but this is different. This is the place he wanted to make good again, reconnecting garden, farm and land. More than just a personal biography of a place, this book is the story of taking an inheritance and steering it in a new direction, just as an entrepreneur might take hold of a company, or just as all of us might want to take our dreams and make them real.


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Winner of Ondaatje Prize 2009 and Spear's Book Awards: Family History Book of the Year 2009.

Praise for 'Earls of Paradise': 'A brilliantly imaginative and beautifully written coup of scholarship... Nicolson has written well about the English landscape before, but here he surpasses himself... fascinating... absorbing.' - Observer 'Nicolson is a terrific writer. The countryside scenery essential to his drama is described with transcendent sensitivity.' - Independent 'A beautifully written and finely balanced book...above all, it is a sensual, even rapturous tribute to the beauties of the countryside and a disarmingly readable contribution to the history of ideas...Earls of Paradise is an elegant, thoughtful, imaginative book...Nicolson's carefully crafted prose never strikes a false note. With its love of natural beauty, its affection for small communities, its trust in the past and its customs, his book will give abiding pleasure.' - Sunday Times 'An elegantly written and intellectually adventurous lament for an England that has long since disappeared!as a past winner of the British Topography Prize, Nicolson might have been expected to write well about the Wiltshire countryside, but he surpasses all expectations here. His opening description of the rippling downs and shadowed woods around Wilton!is a miniature masterpiece!and since Nicolson's touch is just as sure with people as it is with places, we get a wonderful sense of everyday rural life in early modern England.' - Evening Standard 'Immensely readable.' - Daily Telegraph 'Fascinating! a rich, informative and original book! it weaves its three themes together in a deft and beguiling way.' - Sunday Telegraph 'A superb book, beautifully written, subtle, passionate, questioning, mind-altering and wise.' - Daily Mail 'Absorbing! Nicolson recreates, with admirable vigour and a sure control of complicated details a country in crisis! his wonderful, lyrical and contemplative book.' -Guardian 'Brilliant *****' - Mail on Sunday Praise for 'Men of Honour': 'His descriptions of the battle itself, and of the personalities of those who engaged in it, are seamanlike, assured and informative' - Independent 'The story of the battle has been told before, but rarely with the literary aplomb and almost cinematic realism that are to be found in Adam Nicolson's new book.' - Sunday Telegraph 'Argued with vigour and written with grace, this is an illuminating piece of interpretive cultural history.' - Sunday Times 'Vividly clear! Vibrant! Compelling.' - Observer 'Nicolson does not aim (to give)a blow-by-blow account of the battle. Instead he takes a philosophical and literary approach! In this he succeeds exceptionally well.' - Independent on Sunday 'Sparkling! - Adam Nicolson's account of Trafalgar is majestic, poetic and, at base, authentic.' - Literary Review 'Of the hundreds of books written about Nelson and Trafalgar over the past two centuries, perhaps a dozen will be worth re-reading at the tercentenary. This is one of them' - Spectator 'Of the many books marking the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, Adam Nicolson's can claim to be one of the most original' - The Week 'Strikingly original! Mr. Nicolson brings to life superbly the horror, devastation and gore of Trafalgar' - Economist 'As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar approaches, a tsunami of Nelson books can be expected, but few will be more thought-provoking than this one! Mr. Nicolson brilliantly characterises each navy - British, French, Spanish - as an expression of the countries to which they belonged. The picture is vivid' - Country Life Praise for Adam Nicolson and his books: 'Nicolson writes so well, with such modesty and deep feeling, that the book fairly sings in your hands.' - Daily Telegraph 'Exceptionally well done, beautifully written, personal yet panoramic' - Observer 'An extraordinarily outward-looking book! a truly passionate attention to detail!. A love-letter no one else could hope to write so well.' - Sunday Telegraph 'A passionate evocation, a compression of observation and anecdote which catches you up in its intelligence as well as its enthusiasm, and fill you with homesickness for a place you've never been to.' - Daily Telegraph 'Generous, exuberant and a vividly written narrative!. history, travel-writing and memoir of the best sort.' - Spectator 'Sharply observed, a finely written work, one to be savoured, turned over and over like a good whisky.' - Sunday Times

Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel and the environment. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives at Sissinghust Castle in Kent.This is his fifth book for HarperCollins -- his previous five being 'Earls of Paradise', 'Men of Honour', 'Sea Room', 'Power and Glory' and 'Seamanship'.

General Fields

  • : 9780007240548
  • : Harper Press
  • : Harper Press
  • : 0.66
  • : November 2008
  • : 241mm X 160mm X 33mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : November 2008
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Adam Nicolson
  • : Hardback
  • : 1108
  • : 942.238
  • : good-very good
  • : 400
  • : Illustrations, maps