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Lady Hester [Paperback]

Lorna Gibb
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 May 2006
The biography of a great British traveller - the tall, headstrong and hugely charismatic Lady Hester Stanhope, who defied social convention to become a powerful figure in the Middle East.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571217540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571217540
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lorna was born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire and used to work as a professional dancer. She lectures at Middlesex University and is currently the Visiting Research Fellow in History at Essex University. In the past five years she's lived in four different countries but is now back in London with her husband, two rescue cats from Qatar and a rescue snow Bengal from Chichester. Her biography of the fabulous Dame Rebecca West for Pan Macmillan was published in March 2013. Counterpoint in the US will be bringing out the American edition in 2014. At present she is working on a novel for Granta.
See for more information, contact details and a list of forthcoming events.

Product Description


"'A gripping narrative of a unique woman. Vividly evokes the culture and atmosphere of the East.' Sunday Telegraph 'Flawlessly written.' Frances Wilson, Guardian 'Enthralling... Charts the fate of a radical spirit in a revolutionary age.' Traveller"

About the Author

Lorna Gibb grew up in Bellshill, Scotland, and worked as a professional dancer in Italy before studying at London University. She took her PhD at Edinburgh, lectured at Helsinki and Sheffield University, and was a guest lecturer at the University of Salzburg. She lives in London with her husband. Lady Hester is her first biography. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lady hester 30 Dec 2005
This is the biography of a truly remarkable woman. She seems to me to be a perfect example of what we in the Netherlands often think of as eccentric English women. Having said that, this biography is so much more than just an interesting subject. The writing is elegant and atmospheric, the author's involvement minimal and therefore all the more powerful on the rare occasions it does make an appearance. Hester is not a likeable person, but she does, as the author says, 'provoke'. I was drawn to read this by the sheer number of positive reviews in the British press while I was working there earlier in the year. For once I really think this book deserves all its praise. It was good to read a book where Middle Eastern characters are as wholly drawn as those from Europe. Like Hester, they are not always people you might want as friends, but nevertheless, through Lorna Gibb's narrative we are able to see a little of their motivation and view it within the context of their time and location. The after years of Meryon when his days with Hester are long behind him are both poignant and memorable. The only flaw in an otherwise great book I could find was that I would have liked to read even more about Hester's legacy (Gibb does cover this but I would have liked an extended chapter), but this is a picky remark about a wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating 28 Jan 2013
By heyjude
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lady Hester Stanhope (1776 - 1839)was the niece of William Pitt, his sister was Hester's mother. If you saw the television programme Heroes and Villains (1995) 'Lady Hester : Queen of the East', I think you will have been misled to some extent as to her true achievements. Whilst Jennifer Saunders offers a performance which is in part as Lady Hester is described in this book - it falls far short of the reality. As soon as I had seen the programme on a friend's video only recently I looked up Lady Hester on wiki and determined to find out more, as, in my opinion, the programme did not do justice to her life. I haven't yet finished the book but find it very readable and detailed with source material clearly all well researched and interestingly presented. Lady Hester lived in part at the same time as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757 - 1803) and they were both amazing women making their mark in what I always imagined to have been a male dominated world - I am now determined to read of other women achievers of this period in British History. Books like this make me want to read more serious biographies in preference to historical fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-written book about an interesting subject 25 April 2012
By hiljean VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came across references to Hester Stanhope in a book about early women travellers which prompted me to buy this book. I had previously read the marvellous biography of Jane Digby (A Scandalous Life) by Mary Lovell who also travelled to and settled in Syria, albeit later in the 19th century.

This account reads easily and provides a good balance of political and historical background with Hester's personal life. I started off liking her as an intelligent and unconventional woman. I would have liked to know more about her life in England as Pitt the Younger's hostess and feel this is something of an omission. Lorna Gibb is in too much of a hurry to move on to her travels which, while fascinating, lack the background that would have provided some clues to her behaviour. For example she dealt very autocratically with her servants whom she expected to be on call day and night 24/7. This doesn't hang quite right with her sympathy for the plight of the homeless and dispossessed whom she took in, fed and nurtured, despite mounting debts. There is contradiction in her behaviour here which isn't explained.

I did find as the years passed that I grew to dislike this woman who, while dressing as an eastern man and adopting many eastern customs and beliefs, continued to hold court and demand the benefits of her western upbringing. Nevertheless I felt a grudging admiration for her individuality and refusal to bow to any other authority than her own in a brutal world of political and tribal warfare. A brave woman and a distinctive person, even if it is hard to warm to her.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely romp 1 Feb 2008
By AnnB
A lively book about a very exciting lady. Very well researched with excellent links to the situation in Lebanon today. I recommend this to anyone who likes Regency books, the Middle East, or interesting, unusual women.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping lecture 15 Jun 2009
This biography offers a very intersting insight in the society of the early 19th century and the political events of the time.
Being William Pitt's niece (speaking of William Pitt the Younger), Lade Hester acted for a while as First Lady of the nation, thus connecting her to the political elite of the day. After a series of personal deceptions she lead a somehow adventurous life and started travelling to the Middle East. Lorna Gibb not only informs us about the difficulties of such an unusual life, but also of the persons Lady Hester met (for ex. Lord Byron).
The author writes in a very fluent style, the historical details are based on a profound research and Lorna Gibb gives a lot of good insights in the political change that experienced the Middle East of the period.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Why?
A very well researched and documented book but it lacked emotion. Why did we need another account of Lady Hester?
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by Catriona M. Harrison
3.0 out of 5 stars Great lady!
Lady Hester was an extraordinary woman, especially for her time. This book was selected by someone in my Book Club, though I might have chosen it myself before I read it. Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2010 by texell
3.0 out of 5 stars Lady Hester is horrid!
I can't fault the prose, it's just the subject I don't like very much. Hester's enduring love for her uncle and for the selfish Michael,do not counterbalance her negative... Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2009 by Van
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling tale
This is a real find of a book. Gibb writes like a novelist and really captures the drama and adventures of Lady Hester's life. Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2008 by PaulM
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Incredible
I took this book on my winter holiday to Egypt. Lying on the beach I found myself caught up in Hester's extraordinary world. Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2005 by "jomurray15"
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite present
I received this book as a Christmas present from my husband because I spent several years in Syria and Lebanon. Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2005 by "jesskgibb"
5.0 out of 5 stars Time flies
My partner bought this for me because he thought that I might like it. As I travel for a total of 2 hours each day on trains I usually consume books on a weekly basis, and for two... Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2005 by Hester Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling and educational read
This is probably the best bio I've read in a couple of years. Really exciting stuff put together by a writer who for once knows how not to alienate the general reader by an... Read more
Published on 31 Oct 2005 by "hbrown172"
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