- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Rebel Heart - the Scandalous Life of Jane Digby Hardcover – 26 Jan 1996
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
‘A rollicking good tale…Lovell has researched widely and gives a rich picture of this remarkable woman’s life.’
Harper’s and Queen
‘A compelling narrative… Jane Digby’s sins make a wonderfully good read.’
‘A sympathetic readable biography.’
About the Author
Mary Lovell is the author of the bestselling biographies of Beryl Markham, ‘Straight on Til Morning’, and of Amelia Earhart, ‘The Sound of Wings’. She is currently engaged on a dual biography of Richard and Isabel Burton.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Born in to the aristocratic Digby family - a family which would later have connections with the Churchills - Jane was notorious for her passionate nature, exceptional beauty and unconventional ways. During her 74 years she married at seventeen; eloped with a prince; married a baron; had affairs with numerous influential men, including the King of Bavaria; and had numerous legitimate and illegitimate children by many of them.
At nearly fifty Jane travelled to Damascus where she met the Bedouin Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, eventually falling in love with and marrying him, despite his being 20 years her junior. The last 25 years of Jane's life were by far her happiest, becoming part of a Bedouin tribe which respected her as the wife of their leader and also as a person in her own right. Famed for her knowledge of horses and her riding abilities, Jane's horsemanship earned her great respect from all those who came into contact with her, and her beauty - which even in her sunset years was still remarked upon - ensured she earned her place in a society which ordinarily would never have admitted an outsider into its ranks.
Mary Lovell has written an evocative account of Jane's life, most notably the inclusion of lengthy extracts from Jane's letters and diaries, and those who wrote to her throughout her life. There are interesting snippets of information - my particular favourite being the origin of the word 'cad' - and it's hard not to feel empathy for this young woman who, despite her reputation at the time, was able to rise above it mainly because of her unerring belief and faith in 'true love' which she sought almost obsessively.
There are a few things that prevented me from scoring this higher however. The first half of the book, concentrating on Jane's life before she moved to Damascus, felt very rushed at times almost as though Lovell was desperate to get to the more 'interesting' parts involving Medjuel and Jane's life with him (which despite contemporary accounts, was far from perfect). As a reader, I would have liked to have learnt a little more about Jane's early life and perhaps the way in which those years and the events that happened during them, shaped her attitude as she got older, particularly her first divorce which took place when she was barely 20 and which must have had a deep impact on her given its high profile at the time.
Secondly, the events which take place in Damascus - particularly the feuds and wars which took place between rival Bedouin tribes - was often times very hard to follow. It was also difficult to comprehend the journeys the tribes undertook and in so doing, the distances they covered (which would have equated to thousands of miles over the years). I certainly would have found a map from that time period of great help to me especially when appreciating how arduous it must have been for Jane to begin with, having next to no experience particularly with regards to sleeping in tents, riding camels and coping with the intense heat. And at an age when most women (of that era) were considered elderly.
Overall I did enjoy this and would definitely recommend it, particularly if you're interested in reading about strong, independent women who defied the social conventions of their time; something that we perhaps take for granted these days. And on that basis I would also recommend 'Wedlock' by Wendy Moore, another true account of a strong-willed woman, who was most definitely ahead of her time.
Jane was born into a rich Georgian family, renowned as a great beauty, married a well-known lord and politician when she was still a teenager, and was no more than a few years into her marriage when she caused scandal by eloping with an Austrian prince. She divorced her husband in a case that shocked the entire British establishment, moved to Germany and became the lover of the Bavarian King after her prince abandoned her. She then married a Bavarian baron before embarking on an affair with a Greek count. The baron and the count fought a duel over her, before the baron let her go, and they remained friends to the end of their lives.
Jane then later divorced her Greek count, had an affair with the Greek king (who was the son of the Bavarian king she had earlier had an affair with), took up with a Thessalian bandit general, left him when he was unfaithful to her with her maid - and ran away to Syria, with the maid still in service. Because men come and go, but a good lady's maid is forever, right?
Then whilst travelling in the Middle East she fell in love with a Bedouin Sheik half her age, married him and lived with him to the end of her days, passionately in love, half the year living in goats-hair tents in the desert and half in a palatial villa in Damascus. She was fluent in nine languages, lived as an independent wealthy woman, beholden to no-one, and flaunted the values of society with impunity - and not one of the men she was involved with seemed to think of her with anything less than affection, even after she'd loved 'em and left 'em.
Jane was a woman before her time - independent, intelligent, in control of her own life, unashamed of her own sexuality. In an era where women were expected to sit quietly and look pretty, where love was not expected in marriage and women had few rights, Jane chose to follow her heart wherever it led. She comes across as a unabashed romantic, searching for that one grand passion that would fulfil her, and she finally found it with a Bedouin sheikh in the deserts of Syria.
This is an excellent biography. Lovell presents Jane just as she is, with no moral whitewashing or condemnation, and her admiration for Jane's strength of character and determination comes across on every page. Jane seems very much a modern woman, streets ahead of her time, and it's all but impossible to fall in love with her, as indeed so many in her own lifetime seemed to do.
Just...damn. What a woman. What a story.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews