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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Digby would have been very pleased!!!
During her "Scandalous Life" Jane Digby was often written about in the popular press and remained a topic for tea time gossip for more than 50 years! Victorian England was fascinated by this unconventional woman who lived her life as she followed her heart and passions across Europe and the Middle East. Her story has so many twists and turns that it needs no...
Published on 24 Aug 1999

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3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointing
It took me longer to read this biography than I'd imagined it would, mainly because the writing wasn't particularly engaging, but also because so much of Jane's personal material was censored that much of the book reads like a list of events, with little exploration of her character or feelings. This is a real shame as Jane Digby was obviously a fascinating, intelligent,...
Published 4 hours ago by CaSundara


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Digby would have been very pleased!!!, 24 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
During her "Scandalous Life" Jane Digby was often written about in the popular press and remained a topic for tea time gossip for more than 50 years! Victorian England was fascinated by this unconventional woman who lived her life as she followed her heart and passions across Europe and the Middle East. Her story has so many twists and turns that it needs no embellishments.Mary S Lovell's research on Jane's life relied upon the volumes of diaries and letters she discovered . This brings a validity to her work that other writers have lacked. Jane's experience with the "tabloid press" type stories about her adventures (especially Isabel Burton's exaggerated account written when she thought Jane had died) had to leave her very cynical of potential biographers...but I really believe she would have been very pleased with Mary Lovell's book. The author presented Jane's life without moralizing and judging her and focused on her unique strengths and appreciation of strong personalities without prejudice of any kind. I was fortunate to find a copy of this biography while visiting in Ashburton,Devon, this August.It is out of print here (as "The Rebel Heart") and Mary Lovell's fans hope the publisher will reconsider. I was first introduced to Jane's extraordinary life when I read a biography of her distant relative, Pamela Digby Harriman and the reference was made to the similarities between these two unconventional women. After reading Pamela's life story...I knew I had to find out more about this earlier Digby woman that Pamela felt such a connection with. Mary Lovell has a real flair for writing about strong women characters.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 10 Oct 2004
By 
M. Wheeler (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
I came across this book quite by accident and had never heard of Jane Digby before. What a remarkable woman. Her life was extraordinary, considered scandalous for her day, a life which led her from society in England, through Europe and on to spend the last segment of her life, with a man who turned out to be her greatest love, in Damascas and the desert. Truly a woman before her time, talented, smart, well-educated, a gifted linguist and seemingly fearless in the face of the many struggles she endured, often alone, on her chosen path in life. Mary Lovell has written a fascinating account of this remarkable woman. The book is very well written and never dwells too long, instead moving on from childhood through the stages of Jane's life towards the last years she spent with her Bedouin husband in the desert. Jane clearly touched many lives in many ways. Hers was a memorable life and one beautifully and respectfully recorded by Ms Lovell. I can thoroughly recommend this book.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Biography Lovers, 11 Feb 2003
By 
J. L. Ashurst (Crewe, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
This is an excellent book, but I have withheld the final star, the reasons for which I shall give.
The life of Jane Digby was so varied, and so at odds with her time, sex and upbringing, that I wonder she has not been covered before more frequently. Evidently a woman who loved often but not well, you learn many interesting things as the author takes you in and out of the scrapes Jane put herself through. One interesting tidbit is the origin of the term 'cad'. This is the stuff I read biographies for!
Mary Lovell had access to an immense amount of documentation during the writing of this book, including the diaries (previously thought lost) of Jane Digby herself. This lends the book a wealth of colour and detail which many biographies cannot match. The author also tries to avoid guesswork in looking at the character and motives of her subject.
My only complaint, and it should not stop you buying the book, is that it is too short and definitely not detailed enough considering the source material. I have the strong suspicion that this is the publisher's fault. The most detailed part of the book is Jane's life from her late forties onwards. I felt that the earlier part of her life, including the eponymous scandal of her first divorce, should have been framed better in its period. There is a danger that Jane comes over as a very 'modern' woman, inexplicably time-warped back to the pre-victorian era. I am left with the feeling that the author has been forced to 'skimp', or that the potential readership has been assumed to be less bright than average. I found this frustrating.
If you liked "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire", I am sure you will like this. But it isn't quite of the same calibre.
Well worth a read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Life, 7 Aug 2008
The only book I've read using two bookmarks! The extraordinarily rich biography of Lady Jane Digby whetted my hunger to know everything about her, so the notes were bookmarked as well as the pages.

An aristocratic beauty with a willful character embarks upon a life journey that would quell the courage of some of today's women let alone those 200 years ago! Disgracing her family, she scandalises others while she pursues an adventurous journey towards the arms of a man you'd expect the odds to have been against her having a relationship with then. As we follow her journey, we learn the minutiae of a woman's education, social position and the suffocating expectations she is supposed to dutifully respond to. And, while there is romance, this is more of an adventure story.

The effect on others of her singular behaviour was both to scandalise and impress. More would have been known about her had her nieces not torn up her diaries in shame.

I cried when I finished her story. I had lost a remarkable woman.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject sensitively handled, 21 April 2009
By 
C. o'neill - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
Other reviews have said what an interesting read this is and I thoroughly agree. It's a gripping tale of a remarkable life led by a very interesting and paradoxical woman.

I would also add to the other positive reviews by saying that in terms of the quality of the biography I take my hat off to Mary Lovell. Jane Digby's story would be easy to sensationalise and speculate about, but Lovell handles the source material skillfully and weaves an excellent narrative that skips along without betraying the factual integrity of the story. She also regularly de-bunks unsubstantiated myths and rumours that persist about Jane.

Jane led a scandalous life by the standards of Victorian England but she never courted scandal for its own sake and wanted to escape her notoriety. I think that she would indeed be pleased with this account of her life!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not 'Scandalous' as much as 'Scandal-ridden', 25 July 2009
By 
Tanya Lunn (Bahrain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
I first heard of Jane Digby while visiting Damascus last year and was immediately intrigued by her story so, having enjoyed an earlier work by Mary S. Lovell, I eagerly ordered 'A Scandalous Life' which was recommended by a friend - and I was not disappointed. Like 'Straight on Till Morning", the author's biography of Beryl Markham, this is a thoroughly-researched, entertaining and compelling portrait of a woman who lived an extraordinary (for her time) life. The book also contains a number of interesting black and white photographs and portraits of the people and places that featured prominently in the subject's life. It made me want to travel the 'Jane Digby trail' from her childhood haunt of Holkham Hall in Norfolk to Paris, Munich, Weinheim and Athens where she followed the succession of men who in turn captured her heart; on to Beirut and at last to Damascus and Palmyra where she finally found lasting happiness with her Bedouin sheikh, Medjuel el Mezrab. In later life she exchanged adventures in the bedroom for adventures in the desert among Medjuel's people, for whom she cared and provided generously. She learned to ride and care for camels as expertly as she did horses - seeming at times possess more love for her animals than for most of the numerous children she bore (her last - beloved - child died tragically young). The author hints that after she settled in Syria, Jane Digby may have regretted abandoning her surviving offspring along the way as she did and to me, that speaks of a constant youthful yearning for 'something more' (she was married off for the first time at just 18 years of age to a man considerably older than she). We should bear in mind that 19th century gentlewomen were not nearly as involved with the day-to-day upbringing of children as are modern women. The Victorian age provided the wealthy with wonderful opportunities for adventure and exploration though it was not generally expected that these opportunities would be grabbed by women. Originally seeking lasting love rather than adventure, Jane eventually found both and must have been a remarkable woman (and a talented artist). I would like to have met her!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all women, 29 Mar 2008
By 
D. Wild "Leanne" (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
This is by far one of my favourite books. It recounts the life of a remarkable women who broke free from the social constraints required in a women of her social class at the time, to pursue an independent life filled with men,adventure and travel. One can not under estimate the magnitude of her decisions and actions as it was unheard of for women to possess such independent thoughts never mind act on them. How wonderful it is,that in the end she finds the love of her life.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have the great pleasure to have discovered this book., 31 July 2000
By 
D. Bertola (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
What a find! I was so pulled into the decription of this facinating woman's life I could not put the book down. I felt berieved when her life ended. My overall reaction was to begin researching travel to Syria et environs...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have the great pleasure to have discovered this book., 31 July 2000
By 
D. Bertola (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
What a find! I was so pulled into the decription of this facinating woman's life I could not put the book down. I felt berieved when her life ended. My overall reaction was to begin researching travel to Syria et environs...
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite book of last year, 29 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby (Paperback)
Mary S Lovell achieves the difficult task of keeping the narrative flowing novel-style whilst filling in enough historical detail to keep the subject in the context of it's time. A magical story of a woman well ahead of her time - a heroine of the 19th century for all women of the 21st. A Scandalous Life brilliantly conjures images of the romanticism of the east, and leaves the reader yearning for desert trips to the ancient cities of Syria, and desert nights warmed by Bedouin fires.
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A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby by Mary S. Lovell (Paperback - 18 Jun 1998)
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