I am delighted to launch the Cornflower Book Group following the tremendous response to the suggestion on yesterday's post, and while in future I hope title selection will be a collaborative effort, I've chosen our first book, and here it is:
Vita Sackville-West's 1931 novel, All Passion Spent. I haven't read this so it will be a discovery for me and I hope for many of you. Here is the synopsis from the Virago Modern Classics edition: "In 1860, as a young girl of seventeen, Lady Slane nurtures a secret, burning ambition: to become an artist. She becomes, instead, the wife of a great statesman, and mother to six children. Seventy years later, released by widowhood, she abandons the trappings of wealth and retires to a tiny house in Hampstead....She revels in her new-found freedom, and in an odd assortment of companions...[including] Mr. FitzGeorge, an eccentric millionaire who met and loved her in India, when she was young and very lovely."
This edition includes an introduction by Victoria Glendinning whose biography, Vita - The Life of Vita Sackville-West, I have read and can recommend. To set the novel in some sort of context, around the time of finishing it Vita and her husband Harold Nicolson had recently acquired Sissinghurst and ' "planted 500 daffodil and narcissus where the cherries are to go at the end of the moat. Six wild geese flew over. A lovely afternoon. Planted roses and the Persian peach. Saw a big white owl..." Everything in the garden was becoming lovely; and in the same month the Nicolsons dined with Albert Einstein, and met Charlie Chaplin at luncheon.'
Victoria Glendinning goes on to say that "All Passion Spent" was Vita's best novel and "it has moved tens of thousands of readers who found and still find Vita's fierce simplicities inspirational". It was dramatised a few years ago with the wonderful Dame Wendy Hiller playing Lady Slane.
I hope this will be a good choice to start us off and it should be available internationally. I'm going to set up a separate section of the site for the book group (there will be a link in the sidebar later) and please feel free to suggest titles for future reading there. Meanwhile, I propose we give ourselves four weeks to read the current book, reconvening on Saturday, 15th. December to begin our discussions. I'm looking forward to it!