Sissinghurst : An Unfinished History

3.67 (235 ratings by Goodreads)
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A fascinating account from award-winning author Adam Nicolson of 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.

This paperback edition will be fully updated to cover the first year of Adam Nicolson's endeavour to revive the estate and return it to the glories of its past. 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 130 x 195 x 25mm | 350g
  • HarperPress
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Repr.
  • Illustrations (some col.), maps (some col.)
  • 0007240554
  • 9780007240555
  • 76,568

Review quote

`A masterpiece of rural romanticism, told with shameless lyricism...the vision is one of nature, art and human history in glorious coalition...uplifting.' Sunday Times

`Unusual, impassioned and lucidly written...a gripping but serious history of Sissinghurst Castle.' Sunday Telegraph

`Excellent. A clear-eyed picture...beautiful.' Guardian

`A wonderful book.' Financial Times

`An expert at conveying the "stuff" of place, Nicolson is equally good with Adam Nicolson understands, places tell us about the people who walked them and the dreams they pursued' TLS

"a beautifully expressed exploration of the estate...poignant" The Guardian

"lively...engaging" Daily Telegraph

"fascinating....elegant and perceptive...his passion makes this a gripping account." The Observer

"a masterpiece of rural romanticism...the narrative is charmingly interspersed with tales from Sissinghurst's past" Sunday Times
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About Adam Nicolson

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 `Arcadia' (`Earls of Paradise' in hardback), `Men of Honour', `Sea Room', `Power and Glory' and `Seamanship'.
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Rating details

235 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 17% (40)
4 42% (99)
3 33% (77)
2 7% (17)
1 1% (2)

Our customer reviews

<p>Sissinghurst is Adam Nicolson's home: "It is where I came to understand what a tree was, what a friend was, what a rnrnhideout was, what a landscape was, how entrancing streams were as they made their way in and out of the margins of a rnrnwood, and what solitariness, nature and love might be." In its ruins, Adam's grandfather, Harold Nicolson, and the artist Vita rnrnSackville-West, created a unique, world-famous garden. The garden and Sissighurst Castle are owned by the National rnrnTrust. It is a hugely popular tourist attraction.rn<br /><br />rnAdam and his family moved in to "occupy" the house when Adam's father died. And then the trouble started. The National rnrnTrust had a particular idea of the Sissinghurst "brand", but it conflicted with the more wholistic, working vision that rnrnAdam has of the place he thinks of as home, and where he wants to live with his family (dogs and rabbits included!).rn<br /><br />rnNicolson's riveting book -- now a BBC television series -- tells the history of Sissinghurst past and recounts the rnrnrecent and "passionate account of his struggle to reconnect garden, farm, land and business". A moving and fascinating rnrnbook.</p>show more
by Mark Thwaite
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