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The Wilder Shores of Love by Lesley Blanch
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The Wilder Shores of Love

by Lesley Blanch

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I found this book on the bookshelf when I was vacationing with my family in the South of France. (Wow, that is possibly one of the most pretentious sentences I've every written. But that's I was.) It's beautifully evocative, instantly transported you back through time, into the lives of these fascinating women. My only caveat is that it comes from that period of oriental exoticism which means it has some problematic racial issues for the modern reader ( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
I found this book on the bookshelf when I was vacationing with my family in the South of France. (Wow, that is possibly one of the most pretentious sentences I've every written. But that's I was.) It's beautifully evocative, instantly transported you back through time, into the lives of these fascinating women. My only caveat is that it comes from that period of oriental exoticism which means it has some problematic racial issues for the modern reader ( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
This book is a compilation of four mini-bios of women who lived from the 18th Century to the very early 20th Century. The thread that weaves these women's stories together is that their hearts and lives were inexorably bound to the Near East, and all bucked convention in one way or another.

As a biography, it was written far too subjectively to be very good. The author made too many conjectures about her subjects' motives and about the states of their minds without very strong supporting evidence.

On the other hand, I loved this book, which read more like historical fiction, to me. I must admit, here, to a guilty-pleasure weakness for romantic exoticism, and this was thoroughly satisfying on that level. It's also always satisfying to read about and root for women who were strong enough to live lives outside the narrow confines of the role of women from earlier eras. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Feb 29, 2012 |
If I had to reduce my library to one shelf, this book would be on it. If all the other books were by and about men, Lesley Blanch's The Wilder Shores of Love, alone, would provide the gender balance. The suggestive title is misleading. This is not a romance novel, nor erotica. Think, instead, of Lytton Stachey's Lives of Eminent Victorians. This, also, is a quartet of diverse biographies, similarly concerning lives in the 19th century, equally readable and entertaining, and, too, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It's unfortunate the book came out in 1954, during the Eisenhower era, when women's roles were just beginning to expand beyond secretary, factory worker and homemaker. Then its potential audience was limited. Today, well - it should be required reading in high school.

The four women featured share a biographic theme. Each, ultimately, came to be fascinated by, and fated to live an important part of their lives, in the Near East. But that was about all they had in common. Isabella Burton, wife of the famed explorer, was a devoted spouse who lived for and through her husband's glory. Lady Jane Digby el Mezrab, who kept her famed beauty until old age, followed romance where ever it led, acquiring and discarding more husbands than Zsa Zsa Gabor, until she found true love in Syria. Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, cousin of Josephine Bonaparte, was captured by pirates and consigned to a Turkish harem, but prevailed, through court intrigue, to become the mother of an emperor. Isabelle Eberhardt, unprepossessing in appearance, was more at home in the desert than society, chose to cross dress - though she had a male lover, and escaped to a life in North Africa as a free lance journalist. Her admirers included, equally, both Muslims and French Legionnaires.

There is, too, a fifth woman in the book, who led a life every bit as full and adventurous as her subjects - the author, Lesley Blanch. A talented artist, and journalist, she married author and diplomat Romain Gary and traveled widely with him. She experienced Hollywood society in its golden era, wrote a dozen books, and lived to 103. Her scholarly and romantic spirit gives a unique and brilliant illumination to the four lives she examines, almost to the point where they beckon, across the hot sands, like fata morgana castles in the air. ( )
6 vote Ganeshaka | Sep 11, 2010 |
Found it heavy going in terms of prose, which seemed a little archaic or awkwardly written. The characters were interesting but I couldn't make myself do more thean skim parts of it. ( )
  phyllis2779 | Aug 4, 2009 |
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Love and Love always read from the same book, but not always from the same page -- Richard Garnett, de Flagello Myreteo
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To my husband
Romain Gary
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786710306, Paperback)

For the four women included in this classic volume of biography, the wilder shores of love lay east of their native Europe—in Arabia, for Victorian Isabel Arundell, who married the defiantly unorthodox social outlaw and adventurer Burton of Arabia; in a harem, for Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, a convent girl abducted by Corsair pirates and presented to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire; in Bedouin tents and the bed of Sheik Abdul Madjuel El Mezrab for the raffish divorcee Jane Digby; and in the Sahara, for the Russian-born Isabelle Eberhardt, who entered the world of desert Arabs dressed as a man. "Love, wanderlust, faraway places—all that Romance implies—make up this delicious book.... Ideal reading."—Washington Post Book World "A splendid quartet of biographies ... it is as engrossing a literary trip through the exotic East as I have taken."—San Jose Mercury News "'A fabulous quartet' featuring four nineteenth-century women 'who out-dared the heroines of romance novels ... and swayed the course of empires.'"—New York Times Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:58 -0400)

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