Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West by Matthew Dennison - review by Jane Ridley

Jane Ridley

Knole Me Tangere

Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West


William Collins 364pp £25 order from our bookshop

Vita Sackville-West is considered a lesbian icon. Nigel Nicolson caused a storm in 1973 when he published Portrait of a Marriage, an account of the affair between his mother, Vita, and Violet Trefusis. Victoria Glendinning revealed the full story of Vita’s love life in her biography, published in 1983. In this astute and engaging book, Matthew Dennison looks again at Vita’s extraordinary life and makes a new sort of sense of it. 

Her childhood was privileged but lonely. Her mother, Victoria, the illegitimate child of the Spanish dancer Pepita, was tempestuous and unpredictable, a beauty and a bully. Vita was often left behind at the Tudor palace of Knole while her parents were away. Knole was more important to her than any

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