Family History

With my Chauffeuse out shopping today I finished reading

The front cover of my Virago Modern Classics edition, Number 234 of 1986, shows “The Opera Cloak” by William Strang.

The back cover contains the publisher’s accurate blurb on the novel,

after the last page of which is this description of the history and aims of the ground-breaking publishing house.

Not the best known of Vita Sackville-West’s works, this is the first I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is a very well crafted book divided into four parts each devoted to interlinking the various protagonists and their perspectives. Without spoilers I cannot better the publisher’s description.

The book having first appeared in 1932, the author’s own social background is reflected in the class of the main characters and their efforts to adapt to the conflict-inducing winds of change.

The writing is easy and fluent with a straightforward vocabulary making good use of adjectives and adverbs and conveying the meaning with careful simplicity. Vita is a mistress of sentence length, able, with appropriate punctuation to write a prolonged description or to suggest much with a short line. One example that remains in my mind is “an owl hoots in the distance”, or words to that effect (I can’t remember exactly), during a late afternoon walk in a garden. With that short phrase the writer conveys the bucolic location and the time of day, without interrupting the conversation as the evening draws in. This spareness is a characteristic of her pictures of town and country; of buildings, gardens, and landscape.

Mrs Sackville-West chronicles exchanges between people in a natural way. She has a good understanding of struggles to engage; of cultural divides; and of expressed and unexpressed views, conflicts, and ambivalences. Her characterisation is complex and revealing.

Victoria Glendinning’s introduction is well-written, knowledgeable, and informative.

With sunset due sometime after 4.00 p.m. today, and then to have descended behind the buildings of Christchurch Road, I photographed it while there was still a glow in the clear sky

and pink tinges touching the few clouds to the north-east.

Elizabeth visited today with infant bedding for Flo sent by Frances. By invitation she joined us for dinner, which consisted of well-topped pizzas, Jackie’s delicious chicken stewp, and plentiful salad, with which the Culinary Queen drank Southern Ocean Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Elizabeth and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021.


  1. Beautiful sunset picture. Our sunset is around six in the evening. I have a few short minutes after work to get stuff done outside before the darkness takes over.

  2. I know I read something by her years ago just because of her who GF was, but I can’t remember what it was. Now It’s going to bug me.

  3. I’d forgotten about how early sunset is in England, and I had not expected it as far south as you are. I’ve been focused on your long, delicious summer twilights.
    What an interesting publisher! Something in the vein of my ramble about the Stella Prize in my last blog post.

  4. I enjoyed your book review, Derrick. The changing times back then seem both liberating and frightening for women. Much was at stake.

    Sunset comes early these days, and the colors are beautiful. Winter solstice is not far off now.

  5. I too have read a lot about Vita Sackville-West, who lived her life to the full, and have enjoyed her writing. I am glad you all dipped into the southern hemisphere for your wines 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing this review!

    Gorgeous sunset photo! We watched the sun set last night…it had been cloudy all day and when the sun was setting the whole sky full of clouds were pink and blue…so pretty! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  7. I’m so pleased I decided to play catch-up again, Derrick, for I would have missed this post (along with all the gorgeous photos elsewhere and especially those of little Ellie). This is a new title to me and one I shall certainly seek out. More catching up tomorrow I hope. Trust you and the family are well ?

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