Sissinghurst by Adam Nicolson, abridged by Loris Morgan Griffiths

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Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 Extra

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 24-28 June 2013
Adam Nicolson's fascinating piece of autobiographical writing looks at the significance of Sissinghurst, the garden created by his grandfather and wife Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville West, and its impact on his family.
Outwardly a beautiful place created as part of a wish-fulfilment fantasy, Sissinghurst eventually became some kind of a prison, both mental and physical, for a family pathologically unable to communicate with one another.  This is ironic, given that most of them were writers; but as Nicolson suggested, the ability to set down words does not necessarily mean an ability to disclose one's feelings.  Text can obfuscate as well as enlighten. 
More damagingly, the family found that in order to survive, they had to admit visitors.  Many of the buildings, which had once been part of the  family estate, were converted into visitor amenities.  This certainly improved revenues, but transformed the property into a shell, deprived of any significant memories.  By the time Adam's father Nigel died in 2004, the property was financially successful but lifeless.
Sissinghurst was a fascinating account of how oppressive the past can be, especially when it is always there with the Nicolson family in terms of the house and garden.  It is up to individuals to try and negotiate that past, which is precisely what Adam tried to do.  Read by the author himself, this was a fascinating piece of self-analysis.