Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Scandalous Life... Mary Lovell's It Girl for the 1800s

Married to a Lord at 17, divorced soon after. Affairs with an Austrian Diplomat, a King, a Greek count and an Albanian robber chief, before she finds the love of her life... a Bedouin sheikh.

If she was a character from the 21st century, Lady Jane Digby - described by everybody who meets her as amazingly beautiful - might have dressed like the hottie in the Armani advert. But she's much, much more than a pretty face.

In a time when women more or less have to do as they're told, Lady Digby is an amazing free spirit. From her family's massive mansion in the countryside she hits London, aged 16, and snaps up a super rich government minister twice her age.

It doesn't take her long, though to fall in love with someone else, and someone else, and someone else. More than anything else the Lady Digby story is one of passion and following your heart. The other thing it's about is travel. Each time Lady Digby's life erupts in scandal she moves on, covering most of Europe in her escapades, and in this book it's beautifully described. She ends up in Syria, camping in the desert with her sheikh lover, twenty years younger than her, and building a house in Damascus.
I read this while the protests in Syria were really kicking in and it made it especially immediate and sad. Lady Jane loves the country, this place in particular.

This book is beautifully put together, with tons of insight into the times, and letters and diary excerpts from all the characters. The most amazing thing about it is that the author, Mary Lovell didn't make it up. It's all true.

Lady Digby and her adventures existed. In my writing I sometimes worry I make things too unbelievable. Is the heroine of  SONG TO WAKE TO unrealistically quirky or romantic? On the evidence of Lady D., definitely not.

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