44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read for Biography Lovers,
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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Initial post: 20 Aug 2010 13:00:15 BDT
I agree, the author admits she had thousands of pages of material, and access to Jane Digby's diaries, yet the book is just over 300 pages, when really it should have run to two volumes at least.
Posted on 31 Aug 2014 17:26:04 BDT
I've just reached the place she reaches her forties and came here to read reviews as I thought the book was somewhat lacking in detail. Glad to hear it picks up and agree that a more thorough examination would be more appropriate. I read a biography to get inside someone's head (as much as is possible from someone else's perspective) but much of the text so far keeps her at arm's length, or so it feels. I wonder if there were certain elements the author agreed not to publish to save her family more embarrassment, or because they refused permission to publish any of it otherwise? Who knows...but it's a shame as she seems a thoroughly interesting character.
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