Thursday 5 February 2009

Heirs and Graces

My little spread of book titles from the other day will give me the opportunity to spend the next while talking my way through them... first up is Vita Sackville-West's The Heir, which was first published in 1922 and was reprinted by the wonderful Hesperus. I can't find it on Amazon, nor is the Hesperus website working at the moment, but do look out for their copy (I found mine in Blackwells) as it's beautiful even by the standard of Hesperus' beautiful covers.

The Heir is only 90 pages long - which, as we discussed a while ago, is greatly in its favour as far as I am concerned - and originally came with the subtitle 'A Love Story'. The love story in question is between the heir (Chase) and the house he inherits. Flicking through, I can't find the name of the house, so perhaps it doesn't have one - but Vita's son believed the novel to be written as an act of catharsis at not being able to inherit Knole, the house she loved and is incorporated into Orlando.

I've now read three books by Vita Sackville-West - No Signposts in the Sea, which wasn't exceptionally good; All Passion Spent which was great, and now The Heir. VSW's writing, especially when on a topic she clearly cares about, is beautiful - and the gradual realisation on Chase's part that he loves the house and the villagers... why do my descriptions of books always seem to become schmaltzy? The Heir isn't at all - it's honest and witty and touching and good.


  1. Virago also published this (with Seducers in Ecuador) so second-hand copies of this (like mine) should be available.

    The house is called Blackboys, and I agree that this story isn't schmaltzy, but rather honest and witty and touching and good.

  2. I must look out for this - and the cover is beautiful.

  3. I havent read any Vita at all, you put me to shame in all honesty! I will add her to my list of authors not tried but must in 2009 straight away!

  4. I think you would love her book, "The Edwardians"'s a love story to youth, romance and Knole. I couldn't put it down.

  5. 'Blackboys' is based on Groombridge Place. In the foreword my (1949 Richards Press) copy of 'The Heir' V S-W describes visiting the house after the death of its spinster owner. She is in the company of 'a rich and florid South American...who thought of buying it and whose attitude towards it shocked me into writing this story.'
    This story is a a reflection of the visceral feeling she had towards Knole, the house in which she was born, and as a woman, could never inherit.


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