Lesley Blanch was already a distinguished traveller and journalist when her first book, The Wilder Shores of Love, was published in 1954. It pioneered a new kind of group biography, was immediately acclaimed as a classic, and became a worldwide bestseller.
It told of four nineteenth-century women of contrasting backgrounds and temperaments who sought in the East the adventures and emotions which were rapidly disappearing from the industrialized West.
Isabel Burton married the Arabist and explorer Richard; Jane Digby el-Mezrab (Lady Ellenborough), the society beauty, ended up living in the Syrian desert with a Bedouin chieftain; Aimée Dubucq de Rivery, a French convent girl was captured by pirates and sent to the Sultan’s harem in Istanbul; and Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss linguist felt most comfortable in boy’s clothes and lived among the Arabs in the Sahara. They all escaped from “the bordeom of convention” and the constraints of nineteenth century Europe.
“There have been many women who have followed the beckoning Eastern star,” said Lesley Blanch
CARSON McCULLERS: “I am enchanted with Lesley Blanch’s book. I believe that it is a classic of the belles lettres genre. It is a book of such radiance and strength”
FREYA STARK: “in a letter to Lesley Blanch dated 5/12/80] How many years ago it is since I wrote a truly genuine and enthusiastic review on The Wilder Shores Of Love . . . a book as excellent as its title”
VAL HENNESSY, DAILY MAIL: “Their true stories, first told grippingly by Blanch in 1954, are amazing . . . and make you realise that we, with our wimpish long-haul packages and compulsory travel insurance, don’t know we’re born”
SUNDAY EXPRESS: “A dazzling experiment in biography”
THE TIMES: “Four variations on the theme of the nineteenth century woman who turns to the East for her adventurous life and love. They are, indeed, an odd quartet, well selected for the parallelism and contrast, each one in a measure freakish, enterprising, legendary and fully deserving Miss Blanch’s lively and expressive portraiture”
DAILY TELEGRAPH: “Lesley Blanch can reconstruct, to the point of recreation, the several atmospheres through which all her subjects passed . . . The exploitation of the great lovers, especially the great female lovers, of history is a tale more than twice told; but when it is done with the psychological acumen and the physical sensitivity of Lesley Blanch it is not only still worth doing but enthralling to read”
Biography. The Wilder Shores of Love has never gone out of print in English since first publication by John Murray, 1954, illus. Translated originally into 12 languages.
UK edition : Phoenix House/Orion Books, 1993 PB 336 pages £7.99 ISBN 1857990625
US edition: Simon & Schuster, 2010 PB 368 pages $15 ISBN 1439197342
Chinese edition, Marco Polo Press, Cité Publishing 2017
French edition (OP) translated by Guillaume Villeneuve. Editions Denoel, (2005)
German edition (OP) Verlag Ullstein GmbH (1984)
Italian edition (OP) La Taratuga (November, 1992)
Arabic edition (OP) Barzan Publishing Ltd, Beirut (August, 2006)