Valerie Grove

Queen of the Desert

Far to Go and Many to Love: People and Places


Quartet Books 376pp £25 order from our bookshop

There is no resisting the spell cast by Lesley Blanch’s words. You just have to recline, metaphorically, in your turban and beads among tasselled cushions under a fretted moucharabiyeh and be engulfed by the rich colours and textures, the elegance and the drama of her writing. Like the heroines of her first book, The Wilder Shores of Love, which catapulted her to fame in 1954 and follows the fortunes of four remarkable 19th-century women who travelled eastward in pursuit of romance, Blanch herself was lured by the exotic. ‘I am like the pine tree of Heine’s famous poem, forever dreaming, on some desolate northern shore, of a distant palm tree in the Eastern lands.’

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