I don’t know if any of you joined in on Cornflower’s first ever Book Group read, All Passion Spent, but here’s the link if you wanted to follow the animated conversation. Lots of strong opinions and lots of people contributing – can’t quite match the fun and furore of a real live book group, but comes a close second.
You may remember that I got All Passion Spent as my Secret Santa present – and I Woolfed it down. Yes, I know Woolf didn’t write the novel , but there wasn’t a great deal of punning potential in ‘Sackville-West’… unless some sort of badinage on ‘string-vest’…
I was a little surprised that not everyone loved the novel, but I must assure you that it is brilliant. I had 22 contenders for my top ten books (well, I read a great deal more than that, but there were 22 on my shortlist) and All Passion Spent came in about twelfth. It’s the tale of Lady Slane, a widow who decides to buck her troublesome family (which does include, however, the rather lovely dreamer Ethel) and live alone for the first time in her life. She quietly moves to a house she first saw thirty years previously, refuses to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (though, again, in a quiet and calm way) and reminisces about her childhood, courtship, and marriage. In many ways the old-woman-seeking-dependence plot is like The Stone Angel, which I wrote about here, but where Hagar was undeniably selfish and bitter, Lady Slane is dignified, sensible and kind throughout.
A background of great, slightly eccentric, characters such as Mr. Bucktrout and FitzGeorge complete this witty, calming, beautiful novel. Above all, the writing is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful – each sentence is constructed with care and humanity. Would make excellent Boxing Day reading.