No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West

No Signposts in the Sea cover

No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West was first published in 1961 but my copy is a Virago Modern Classics reprint from 1985.

I really liked this one, the setting is a cruise ship which is sailing to exotic locations and Edmund Carr is a passenger on it, one of the reasons he decided to go on the cruise is that he discovered that Laura is going on it and he has secretly admired the beautiful and smart widow for years.

Edmund had never married, his life had been taken up with his career in journalism and he had ended up being an influential leader writer on a serious Fleet Street newspaper. Edmund’s doctor has recently given him bad news, he doesn’t have long to live so he gives up his job to go on the cruise and spend his last weeks with Laura who knows nothing about his illness or indeed even that he will be on the cruise.

This is a thoughtful read as Laura and Edmund’s friendship deepens and they explore each other’s views on marriage and other things and Laura realises just how different their backgrounds are (possibly this explains Edmund’s reticence where a relationship with Laura was concerned) as Laura is obviously well-heeled and Edmund grew up in poverty in a teeny wee cottage. There’s plenty of humour though in observing the other cruisers and those must have been gleaned from the author’s own cruising experiences.

There is an introduction by Victoria Glendinning.

This was Sackville-West’s last novel, written when she was dying of cancer. She had a complicated personal life but was also a very keen and knowledgeable gardener, creating the famous Sissinghurst – a place that I have yet to visit.

I read this one for The Classics Club.

5 thoughts on “No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West

  1. Hi Katrina,
    I’m putting this one on my list. I had no idea she wrote a novel while she had cancer. How difficult that must be to do. I would just stick my nose in books and not come out. Not for anything.
    I would simply love to visit Sissinghurst.
    And I would love to tour English and Scottish (Welsh?) gardens. And of course I do, via your travels and your blog, and also online, and also in books I find via inter-library loan. I am a total UK garden appreciator.
    I’m teasing myself with ideas of traveling to the UK in 2019, but I have already made plans for a solo hiking, birding, nature journey to Monhegan Island from May 30-June 4th. (I’m thinking of extending it a day, in case of bad weather.) That island is enchanted.
    I want to do an archaeological/historical tour of East Anglia in July, but what would Ken do, because he couldn’t do this physically, nor would he want to. He loves the UK, too, though. That’s what I’d like to figure out. I don’t want to wait til 2020. Oh dear, you know how these plans go! Of course I would want to figure out a way to see you. That would be very important to me.
    Actually, I’m kind of a scaredy-cat about travel these days.
    When I think back to how blase Ken and I were about our honeymoon trip to Ireland and England in 1986 and our trip to London in 2000, when we had no fears about anything whatsoever. Both were trips we will never forget!
    How did I get on to this subject?? All from Sissinghurst!

    • I meant to say I’m interested in joining an archaeological/historical tour of East Anglia in July 2019. Six days. But…??? I’m a scaredy-cat.

      • Judith,
        I haven’t flown for years, in fact after Lockerbie I said I would never take my kids on a plane and although as adults they’re always on and off them, I still can’t bring myself to do it. Is suppose Ken could just stay at home and look after the dog – if you had another one! We’re about 500 miles from East Anglia, not exactly handy (I don’t advise you walk it!!). I’ll email you soonish.

  2. Sissinghurst is simply marvellous. We went several times while on holiday in Kent. The best time is its last hour before closing when it is quieter. It is semi formal in that it has themed areas but it is not regimented. Were it not for the continual flow of people I could just sit and “be”.

    Best garden we have been to, a second to Hidcote.

    • H,
      We used to live down south and I’m annoyed that we didn’t get around to visiting such places then. We plan to do a trip, maybe next summer – going to Sissinghurst, Hidcote, Rye, Lewes and maybe Kelmscott.

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