Romain Gary

Then, at a party, Lesley Blanch met Romain Kacew (later changed to Romain Gary), a Polish/Russian-born French navigator with the Lorraine Squadron of General de Gaulle’s Free French Forces. It was a coup de foudre, and it was mutual. She arranged for Lee Miller and Germaine Kanova to photograph Gary in his military uniform and wrote in Vogue, in January 1945, about his first novel, Forest of Anger, which portrayed the Partisan groups in Poland.

The couple married on 4 April 1945 and left to live in Bulgaria where Gary was sent en poste – Blanch was never to return to England other than as a visitor. Gary spent every available hour working on his novel. Lesley would say: “He was always going to be a great writer. His mother had decided that.”

On the Road

Life in the French Diplomatic Service took them from the Balkans to Paris, Berne, New York and Los Angeles. From these home bases they extended their travels further – to Turkey, North Africa, Mexico, Central America . . . When not travelling or socializing, the couple would sit snug in dressing gowns, writing their books in long-hand as neither one had learned to type. “We understood each other perfectly about work and had the same sense of humour, and we both loved animals, all kinds. He used to say: ‘Lesley doesn’t mind my infidelities, she is very eighteenth-century’.

Christmas card by Lesley Blanch, Los Angeles 1957 © Estate of Lesley Blanch

A faithful friend and fickle lover

According to those who knew them as a couple, they had a special affinity and similar interests, and were extremely entertaining. They shared a love of books and ideas, as well as animals. There is a great difference between loving and liking a man, Lesley would say of her husband: “I’m madly in love with him, but he’s unbearable!”

The outsiders travelling the world become bestelling authors (she narrative non-fiction, he fiction) © All rights reserved