Sissinghurst or Bust!

Remember a few years ago when I was weighing (literally) which books to take to Tanzania and Kenya? Well, I am planning for a trip to Sissinghurst in England and I need to find things to read. I can hear some of you thinking, Sissinghurst is a day trip with plenty to look at, how many books could a person need. And you would be right. Except…the Priest’s House, on the estate itself–not adjacent like the B&B we stayed at several years ago–literally forms one of the walls of the famous white garden, and we are staying in it for an entire week. And to top it off when you rent the cottage you have after hour access to the gardens. There is part of me that doesn’t believe that will be the case. But I will have much more to say about that in the coming weeks.

In the meantime I need to figure out what to read on the trip. I saw somewhere online that the cottage has a well stocked library, but that could mean so many things so I don’t know how much to trust in that possibility. Part of me wants to risk it and read whatever I find there, but there is the matter of the flight over and then the chance that I get stuck in a remote location with nothing to read.

Given that I recently took four books on a 3-day trip to New York, this pile is extremely modest. Especially for a week away and two Transatlantic flights. I thought of adding something by Vita Sackville-West to the pile, but since Sissinghurst used to belong to Sackville-West and I can visit her study on a daily basis, I’m guessing that finding something to read by her won’t be too hard.

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch
Last year I fell back in love with Murdoch’s work after reading two of her lengthier works. This short volume seems like the perfect choice for a trip. Plus it is a mass market edition that I won’t feel bad leaving behind.

Continent by Jim Crace
A volume of short stories about an imaginary continent. I often like to read out of my normal range on vacation and this seems just exotic enough to fill the bill. And I am a huge, huge fan of Crace’s novel Being Dead.

Portrait of a Family by Richmal Crompton
Based on the synopsis, I’m not sure if this will be cozy. But I love Crompton and it was published in 1932 so I expect it to push all the right buttons for me. It might have been too pedestrian for Vita, but who knows, maybe she took it to the beach.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
A giant dystopian novel. Perfect summer vacation reading.

14 thoughts on “Sissinghurst or Bust!

  1. Liz Dexter June 10, 2019 / 4:47 am

    OMG you lucky devil! I love Sissinghurst. And have you read Sissinghurst by Adam Nicolson??? The grandson of Vita … You know all this of course. He’s such a lovely man, he replied to my email about my review of one of his books, which I really wasn’t expecting.

    And hooray Murdoch of course. I’ll watch out for a review and link it to my page for that book, though it seems so long ago I re-read it again!


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:05 pm

      We have the book, but John read it a few years ago, and I still have not. I’m kind of excited to read such a short Murdoch. Although other short Murdoch (like The Italian Girl) have left me less excited.


  2. Ron June 10, 2019 / 5:30 am

    Perhaps something from the EF Benson series to evoke a good 1920s garden party?


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:05 pm

      John is taking some Benson. And we will only be 30 minutes from Tilling.


  3. Terry Cagle June 10, 2019 / 7:28 am

    That is so exciting. Many years ago, Nigel Nicolson invited me to stay at Sissinghurst for a weekend. At that point, *I think*, his daughter Juliet lived in the little house in the garden (is that the Priest House? dunno). She has written a wonderful book about her family, which I loved, and so might you: A House Full of Daughters.


  4. Susan in TX June 10, 2019 / 10:35 am

    I immediately thought of a Stephanie Barron title, The White Garden. It’s fiction with a (perhaps implausible) mystery written about Woolf’s death. I’m not a Virginia Woolf fan myself – although admittedly, I’ve only ever tried Mrs. Dalloway (hated) and Flush (enjoyed) – but I picked this up on a bargain shelf several years ago and appreciated the quick read that it was. I am a fan of English garden reading, which may have been what compelled me to pick it up. Not sure if this would have appeal to you or not — I’m thinking it’s not your normal wheelhouse?


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:07 pm

      Mysteries don’t do much for me, that is true. Not a big fan of Woolf either. Bu I do quite like Vita Sackville West.


  5. Desperate Reader June 10, 2019 / 2:49 pm

    Exciting. Most national Trust places have second hand bookshops now where you should be able to find something if the cottage library fails you and you run out.


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:08 pm

      We have a piece of luggage that has lots of room in it. We shall see.


  6. Ruthiella June 10, 2019 / 7:32 pm

    I love these posts! And I look forward to the inevitable post of what read and any books you picked up on your travels.


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:09 pm

      One of the more unlikely (for me) vacation reads was when our hotel in Phuket had Her Fearful Symmetry–and I read it.


  7. Simon T June 11, 2019 / 6:18 pm

    Gosh, it’s finally happening! How exciting. I’ve read the Crompton, which is fun and cosy, even with all the issues in it. If I recall, they had a few VSWs in the gift shop.


    • Thomas June 14, 2019 / 3:11 pm

      I’m guessing the library in the cottage will have more than a few VSWs and the like. I’ve asked Lorna to make us Pimms Cups (Pimm’s Cups?) when they visit. I just need to buy the ingredients.


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