Vita Sackville-West Novels

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Looking for a good Vita Sackville-West novel to read? Sackville-West was a prolific writer who wrote numerous novels as well as many nonfiction books and poetry over a span of more than 40 years.

Some of her novels are more well known than others but they are all interesting and noteworthy in their own way.

The following is a full list of Vita Sackville-West’s novels:

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Heritage

Published in 1919, Heritage was Sackville-West’s debut novel and is a semi-autobiographical story about a mysterious young woman on a farm in Kent who harbors a family secret.

Challenge

Written in 1920 but not published in the United States until 1923 and not in England until 1974, Challenge is a romantic adventure story about a young Englishman and the woman he loves who travel to Greece and get caught up in a political revolution during which a drama of jealousy and betrayal unfolds.

The book was inspired by and written during Vita’s lesbian love affair with Violet Trefusis during which they eloped together to France with plans to never return to their husbands.

The book was all set to be published in 1920 when Vita’s family pressured her to cancel the publication, due to fear of the scandal it would cause, and even paid the publisher compensation for the cancellation.

The book was later published in the U.S. in 1923 but it took 53 years for it to be published in the UK.

The Paris Review later described the book as Vita’s “great novel of independence” and it is often touted today as a banned book that should be celebrated.

The Dragon in Shallow Waters

Published in 1920, The Dragon in Shallow Waters is gothic love story set in a dark satanic factory.

Grey Wethers

Published in 1923, Grey Wethers is a love story set in 19th century England that is about a gentleman’s daughter rejecting her station in life by falling in love with a local shepherd.

Seducers in Ecuador

Published in 1924, Seducers in Ecuador is about an English gentleman on an Egyptian cruise who starts wearing a pair of blue spectacles that have an alarming and deadly effect on the world around him.

It was the first novel that Vita published with Virginia Woolf’s printing press Hogarth Press.

The Edwardians

Published in 1930, The Edwardians is a satire about Edwardian high society and is Vita Sackville-West’s most famous book.

The plot is about a privileged brother and sister who are torn between tradition and living an independent life.

The book was an instant best seller when it was published and received positive reviews.

All Passion Spent

Published in 1931, All Passion Spent is the story of an older woman on a journey of self-discovery and is another one of Vita Sackville-West’s most popular novels.

The plot is about an elderly widow who transforms her life after the death of her husband, revels in her new found freedom and begins to really live again without any of the restrictions or sacrifices of her earlier life.

The book was a best seller and has received positive reviews, such as a review from the Sunday Telegraph which described it as “an elegant, surprising, still inspiring novel.”

In 1986, the book was adapted for a TV series by the BBC.

Family History

Published in 1932, Family History is a love story tampered by the complexities of 1930s high-society mores and values.

The plot is about a 39-year-old upper middle class widow and a 25-year-old socially conscious aristocrat who fall in love and suddenly become aware of their age gap and the difference in their two worlds.

The book has received positive reviews. Bloomsbury Group biographer, Victoria Glendinning, said of the book:

“I guarantee that like Harold Nicolson, who was reading Family History on the train between Staplehurst and Charing Cross, most readers will ‘weep copiously.’”

Another fellow Bloomsbury Group biographer, Hermione Lee, reviewed the book for the Guardian and summed the story up as:

“Glamorous aristocrat, complete with ancient name, Spanish Gypsy blood, lost inheritance and family scandals; reckless, romantic lesbian and cross-dresser; devoted wife to a noted diplomat and diarist; mother of two talented sons; bestselling writer, gardener of genius – what could be more enthralling?”

The Irish Daily Mail described the book as “tears, tantrum, age gap… utterly addictive. Tissues ahoy.”

The Dark Island

Published in 1934, The Dark Island is love story set on a fictional island.

The central character, who was inspired by Vita’s real life sister-in-law Gwen St Auby, is a British woman who loves to be loved but has trouble loving others due to some dark mystery that occurred earlier in her life.

The story is about how the young woman can’t be tied down and holds herself to bigger things than people.

Grand Canyon

Published in 1942, Grand Canyon is a dystopian sci-fi fantasy about two British strangers living in the Grand Canyon Hotel in Arizona after WWII.

The plot is about how the Germans have won the war and the British expats are living in exile in America while longing for their beloved England.

When the Nazis then decide to invade America, the two strangers have to take charge and lead their fellow guests into an uncertain future.

A 2012 article in the Guardian by Benedicte Page described the book as “a curious read, written with the urgency and pain of wartime, and it fired me with a fresh interest in its author.”

Devil at Westease

Published in 1947, Devil at Westease is a murder mystery set in a quaint English village after WWII.

When a murder takes place in the small village, the main character becomes involved in the investigation and records his observations for the reader.

The book received positive reviews when it was published, with the New York Times describing it as:

“It is, as might be expected, very well-bred, with sustained suspense, a subtle and original turn of plot, and a fine literary flavor, qualities with which mysteries are not too often blessed.”

The Easter Party

Published in 1953, The Easter Party is about an Easter weekend garden party and the interactions between the guests who attend.

The plot is about two sisters and their husbands at a garden party in the country and it contrasts and compares the two marriages while digging into the psyche of one of the characters.

No Sign Posts in the Sea

Published in 1961, No Sign Posts in the Sea is about death and unrequited love.

The plot is about a journalist who learns he only has a short while to live so he quits his newspaper job and takes a sea cruise where he hopes to be reunited with the love of his life, a nurse named Laura.

The novel was the last one Sackville-West ever wrote and published since she died the following year.

If you want to learn more about Vita Sackville-West, check out this article on books about Vita Sackville-West or this article on Vita Sackville-West’s gardening books.

Sources:
Sherman, Beatrice. “Three British Chillers; Devil At Westease. The Story as Related by Roger Liddiard. By V. Sackville-West. 219 pp. New York: Doubleday & Co. $2.50.” New York Times, 11 May. 1947, nytimes.com/1947/05/11/archives/three-british-chillers-devil-at-westease-the-story-as-related-by.html
Ebooks roundup: Hitler, Hitchens and a hot erotic hit.” The Guardian, 30 Mar. 2012, theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/30/ebooks-roundup-hitler-hitchens
Grand Canyon.” Penguin, penguin.co.uk/books/436471/grand-canyon-by-vita-sackville-west/9781784873493
Dark Island – Vita Sackville-West – First Edition.” Maggs Bros LTD, maggs.com/the-dark-island_133064.htm
Family History by Vita Sackville-West.” Waterstones, waterstones.com/book/family-history/vita-sackville-west/9781784873479
Retro Reads.” Press Reader, pressreader.com/ireland/irish-daily-mail/20180511/282196536591941
Family History.” Penguin Books, penguin.co.uk/books/436470/family-history-by-vita-sackville-west/9781784873479
Banned Books Week and Vita’s Challenge.” National Trust, nationaltrust.org.uk/blogs/curators-blog/banned-books-week-and-vitas-challenge
Challenge by V. Sackville-West.” Barnes and Nobles, barnesandnoble.com/w/challenge-v-1892-1962-sackville-west/1101749988
Challenge by Vita Sackville-West.” Fantastic Fiction, fantasticfiction.com/s/vita-sackville-west/challenge.htm
Dinnerstein Knight, Rebecca. “The Fabulous Forgotten Life of Vita Sackville-West.” The Paris Review, 31 March. 2020, theparisreview.org/blog/2020/03/31/the-fabulous-forgotten-life-of-vita-sackville-west/

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