Review: All Passion Spent

22 01 2008

The Artsy Mama read All Passion Spent for a online book club she is taking part in. She passed the book along to me and I started it way back in December. I finally finished it (forced myself to finish it) two days ago.

As the back blurb tells us All Passion Spent focuses Lady Slane, a elderly woman recently widowed, who, as a wife to a great statesman and mother of six, has always put everyone else’s needs before her own. As a young woman she harboured a secret desire to become a painter, but gave up her own personal desires in favour of duty and tradition. When her husband dies she final asserts her independence and moves to a tiny house in Hampstead to live out her remaining days.

It wasn’t all bad, no, not all bad, but I found the story went in a direction and I started following it and then it abruptly stopped and veered off leaving me quite displaced. I also expected so much more. The book was full of insights into Lady Slane’s psyche, but I felt there could have been so much more. There is an attempt at closure through youth and the younger generation (not to give too much away), but even that I found somewhat forced and the shifts in perspective jarring.

Perhaps one of the problems is that I had recently finished Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont before originally picking this up and I found the former to be a much superior novel, much more engaging and developed, particularly in terms of the relationship between the elderly and the young.

All Passion Spent left me wanting so much more and while I can see the types of issues and themes Vita Sackville-West was trying to develop, I’m afraid that some of that was done at the expense of the story, and that I had very little patience for, particularly when there seemed a chance for this story to be so much more.

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