Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West

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9780007486960: Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West

A dazzling new biography of Vita Sackville-West, the 20th century aristocrat, literary celebrity, devoted wife, famous lover of Virginia Woolf, recluse, and iconoclast who defied categorization.

In this stunning new biography of Vita Sackville-West, Matthew Dennison's Behind the Mask traces the triumph and contradictions of Vita's extraordinary life. His narrative charts a fascinating course from Vita's lonely childhood at Knole, through her affectionate but ‘open' marriage to Harold Nicolson (during which both husband and wife energetically pursued homosexual affairs, Vita most famously with Virginia Woolf), and through Vita's literary successes and disappointments, to the famous gardens the couple created at Sissinghurst. The book tells how, from her privileged world of the aristocracy, Sackville-West brought her penchant for costume, play-acting and rebellion to the artistic vanguard of modern Britain. Dennison is the acclaimed author of many books including a biography of Queen Victoria.
Here, in the first biography to be written of Vita for thirty years, he reveals the whole story and gets behind ‘the beautiful mask' of Vita's public achievements to reveal an often troubled persona which heroically resisted compromise on every level. Drawing on wideranging sources and the extensive letters that sustained her marriage, this is a compelling story of love, loss and jealousy, of high-life and low points, of binding affection and illicit passion – a portrait of an extraordinary, 20th-century life.

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About the Author:

MATTHEW DENNISON is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Princess and Livia, Empress of Rome. As a journalist, he contributes to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Country Life, and The Spectator. He is married and lives in North Wales and Shropshire.

Review:

“Dennison captures both Vita's irresistible charm and her selfishness. Like his subject, he is a natural storyteller, and his impeccable scholarship never weighs down his lively narrative.” ―Independent

“Brave man to take on the biography of Vita, and he has brought it off superbly ... It studies and reveals this extraordinary woman as well as could possibly be. A fine achievement.” ―Spectator, Susan Hill

“Astute and engaging, Dennison looks again at Vita's extraordinary life and makes a new sort of sense of it ... fascinating ... an insightful book. The connections between Vita's childhood, her dispossessions, her sexuality and her writing are compellingly explored. Vita emerges as a complex and interesting character, and far more than a gay icon.” ―Literary Review

“Dennison emphasises the desire for solitude that existed in tension with her joyous sensuality and need for love.” ―Guardian

“Detailed and fascinating ... Dennison shows true admiration for his latest subject ... freshly chronicled here for the first time in more than 30 years.” ―Daily Express

“Intimate ... A splendid biography of a splendid character.” ―The Lady

“Comprehensively documents her literary ... with evocative portraits of her husband [and lovers] ... Dennison's Vita is convincingly ambivalent and inflammatory, a product of her age.” ―New Statesman

“This carefully researched book is intelligently and elegantly written ... balanced, oratical and confident.” ―Spectator

“A judicious but lively biography of the highly un-Victorian Queen Victoria . . . an insightful, short look at the life of an immortal if only sometimes-admirable queen.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Queen Victoria

“Only a very talented biographer could get to the key of Queen Victoria's complicated and psychologically fascinating personality. . . . In Matthew Dennison she has found one.” ―Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War on Queen Victoria

“Fascinating.” ―Vogue on The Last Princess

“An erudite, nuanced, and engrossing portrait of a turbulent era and an empress demonized for refusing to be invisible.” ―Publishers Weekly on Livia, Empress of Rome

“Dennison has pulled off a tremendous coup in writing a short and concise book . . . [with] the confidence of considerable research, well digested and well delivered. . . . The Cast of characters is a rich one, and Dennison knows them well. . . . Perfect.” ―The Times (UK) on Queen Victoria

“Only a very talented biographer could get to the key of Queen Victoria's complicated and psychologically fascinating personality and character. Fortunately, in Matthew Dennison she has found one.” ―Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War on Queen Victoria

“Unputdownable . . . these histories from 2,000 years ago are riveting in their insight, black humor, and sheer readability. ” ―Daily Mail on Twelve Caesars

“Dennison has constructed a nattarive that his classical forbears would instantly recognize and appreciate.” ―Library Journal on Twelve Caesars

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Aristocrat, literary celebrity, Rose Queen , devoted wife, lesbian, recluse, iconoclast - Vita Sackville-West was many things, but she was never straightforward. Her life is re-told here in a dazzling new biography. Vita Sackville-West is perhaps best known as the creator, with her husband Harold Nicolson, of the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, now the most visited gardens in Britain. In a career spanning more than forty years, she also made her mark as a prolific and accomplished writer. She was an award-winning poet, a best-selling novelist, a biographer, a travel writer and a journalist with a huge and devoted following. Images of Vita - striking, poised, aristocratic, and intellectual - remain iconic even now. Yet these public images do not tell all. Behind the mask another, more complicated Vita lay.Here, in the first biography to be written for thirty years, Matthew Dennison reveals a renegade, brave and charismatic woman: from a lonely childhood of immense privilege in her beloved family house Knole (which she, as a woman, could never inherit), to a celebrated and affectionate marriage which was nevertheless mutually open and strewn with passionate homosexual affairs (in Vita s case, most famously with Virginia Woolf and Violet Trefusis); from the hubbub of jewel-encrusted parties at Buckingham Palace, to the solace Vita found in nature and gardening and the eventual seclusion of her tower at Sissinghurst. Drawing on sources from archives across the globe as well as Vita s own prolific written output, Dennison traces the inspiration, triumphs and contradictions of Vita s extraordinary life. Devoted wife, literary celebrity, Rose Queen , reluctant courtier, recluse, lesbian, iconoclast - Dennison deftly weaves together the myriad strands of Vita s life to create a revealing and insightful portrait of the woman behind the mask. Bookseller Inventory # BTY9780007486960

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Aristocrat, literary celebrity, `Rose Queen , devoted wife, lesbian, recluse, iconoclast - Vita Sackville-West was many things, but she was never straightforward. Her life is re-told here in a dazzling new biography.Vita Sackville-West is perhaps best known as the creator, with her husband Harold Nicolson, of the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, now the most visited gardens in Britain. In a career spanning more than forty years, she also made her mark as a prolific and accomplished writer. She was an award-winning poet, a best-selling novelist, a biographer, a travel writer and a journalist with a huge and devoted following. Images of Vita - striking, poised, aristocratic, and intellectual - remain iconic even now. Yet these public images do not tell all. Behind the mask another, more complicated Vita lay.Here, in the first biography to be written for thirty years, Matthew Dennison reveals a renegade, brave and charismatic woman: from a lonely childhood of immense privilege in her beloved family house Knole (which she, as a woman, could never inherit), to a celebrated and affectionate marriage which was nevertheless mutually `open and strewn with passionate homosexual affairs (in Vita s case, most famously with Virginia Woolf and Violet Trefusis); from the hubbub of jewel-encrusted parties at Buckingham Palace, to the solace Vita found in nature and gardening and the eventual seclusion of her tower at Sissinghurst.Drawing on sources from archives across the globe as well as Vita s own prolific written output, Dennison traces the inspiration, triumphs and contradictions of Vita s extraordinary life. Devoted wife, literary celebrity, Rose Queen , reluctant courtier, recluse, lesbian, iconoclast - Dennison deftly weaves together the myriad strands of Vita s life to create a revealing and insightful portrait of the woman behind the mask. Bookseller Inventory # BTY9780007486960

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