A new book by the granddaughter of Woolf’s friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West, recalls the family history of the maternal side of the Nicholson family. Juliet Nicolson, the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson and the daughter of Nigel Nicolson, has written a new biography titled, A House Full of Daughters: A Memoir of Seven Generations, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which will be released on June 14, 2016.
This biography focuses on multiple generations of the women of Nicolson’s family. The story begins on her great-great grandmother, Pepita Duran, who was famous for her beauty and dancing, and ends of Nicolson’s own granddaughter, Imogen.
The Guardian calls Nicolson’s book, “a troubling, entertaining tale” and informs us that the biography doesn’t provide readers with much new information on Vita:
There is not much new that Nicolson can add to Vita’s life – her love for Knole and sense of loss when a cousin inherited it, her affairs with women and her marriage to Harold Nicolson and of course their creation of Sissinghurst. But somehow that makes the story of Juliet’s mother, Philippa, even more fascinating. While everybody was obsessed, Nicolson writes, with recording and recount everything that has happened on her father’s side of the family, no one cared much about the maternal line, the Tennyson d’Eyncourts. There are no diaries, few photographs, and whenever Philippa talked about her upbringing “we yawned”, Nicolson admits.
These days if you visit the garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, you find what its guardians the National Trust want you to see: the stunning flowers and plants and hedges put there by Vita Sackville-West, the bohemian poet and novelist who created the garden in the Thirties.
Go back a few decades, however, and you’d have found something rather different: Sackville-West herself, dead drunk and passed out in the flower beds. On several occasions, the staff had to return her to the house in a wheelbarrow.
The Telegraph calls the book, “exceptionally moving” in their review:
Alcohol, as the narrative’s final bravura section shows, was the dark thread linking mothers to daughters throughout this gilded tale of life in magnificent houses. Nicolson’s anger, tenderness and insight have resulted in an exceptionally moving book.