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The Wilder Shores of Love

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  260 ratings  ·  40 reviews
For the four women included in this classic volume of biography, the wilder shores of love lay east of their native Europe: in Arabia, for Victorian Isabel Arundell, who married the defiantly unorthodox social outlaw and adventurer Burton of Arabia; in a harem, for Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, a convent girl abducted by Corsair pirates and presented to the ruler of the Ottoman ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 26th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1954)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  260 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Lynne King
When I opened this book and began reading, the book didn’t just smile at me but positively glowed. What a stunning book about four women from the nineteenth century who were excited by the East and of finding love and adventure, and set out to achieve their ideals.

Isabel Arundell (later Burton): A determined woman, had a desire to go to the East, and as soon as she met Richard Burton, “with his dark Arabic face, his ‘questing panther eyes’, he was for her that lodestar East, the embodiment of al
There's a whole lot of Burton-love flying about on Goodreads and it has prompted me to write this review. Should you chance across this book while perusing a thrift store or second hand book shop, your hand may graze across the spine and you would be forgiven for immediately thinking that this is some kind of saucy laydee romance novel. If you bought it thinking it was a saucy laydee novel then you will be sorely disappointed.

This book is actually a very engaging account of four women who threw
An interesting exploration of the lives of four women with deep and abiding connections with the Levant despite their English or European origins. Arranged in a kind of reverse order, the first to be presented, along with her very-much-chosen husband, is Isabel Arundell who married Richard Burton. After the twin portrayal of their lives, which in some way is like a middle-eastern version of Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt, each of the other’s goes back a little earlier in time but overlaps the al ...more
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy stories about strong, independent and adventurous women! This story details the lives of four extrodinary characters 'who have followed the beckoning Eastern star' and broken away from nineteenth century Europe to very different lives in the middle east.

The stories capture extreme variations in terms of the womans personailties, their backgrounds and their origins; but each shares a commonality - using love to express, liberate and fulfil their lives.

Personally I think the subje
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was ok

“Her whole life was spent riding at breakneck speed along the wilder shores of love.”—page 136

There are, undoubtedly, books more boring to read than this one; but my hope is that neither of us will ever have to read any of them.

Admittedly, Arabian nights and Turkish delights have never held much excitement for my fancy, so the setting of Lesley Blanch’s four-woman, biographical vignettes, THE WILDER SHORES OF LOVE, combined with her stilted, formal, presentation, may have been a pa
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
"Life's poetry never sank to prose", 1 February 2016

This review is from: On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Kindle Edition)
Couldnt put this down - biographies of four women who 'belonged to the West but dared to turn to the East for adventure and love.'
Thus such famous travellers as the more academic Lady Hester Stanhope are excluded, as the author focusses on more romantic tales.
Isabelle Burton's fevered love and devotion to her explorer husband.....Isabelle Eberhardt, child of a dy
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four biographies of European women whose lives were entangled with Arab countries. Published in 1954, the book is both a milestone of women's biography and a participant in the West's romanticization of "the Orient" that was already becoming outpaced by reality. I found the portraits of these little-known women fascinating, and particularly loved the suggestion that Napoleon's defeat in Russia was brought about by a Frenchwoman in a harem who was furious with him for divorcing her cousin, Joseph ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Facsinating biographies of remarkable women in the Arab world. Loved the old fashioned English style peppered with French; except last biography due to a very abrupt change in writing. It is hard to believe that it was written by the same author.
Believe it or not, I decided to read The Wilder Shores of Love because it got quoted in the J. Peterman catalogue next to an illustration of a fancy nightgown. And after reading the book, that doesn’t seem like a bad place for it. Like the J. Peterman catalogue, it is fanciful, romantic, ardent, and full of exoticism. It is seductive yet also a guilty pleasure, due to the way it traffics in outdated stereotypes about ethnicity and gender.

Lesley Blanch takes for her subjects four well-bred Europe
Stephen Brody
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
In her introduction Lesley Blanch writes: “The four women who form the subject of this book might be described as northern shadows flitting across a southern landscape. All of them belonged to the West, to the fast-greying climate of nineteenth-century Europe where the twentieth-century disintegration of women, as such, was already foreshadowed. Yet of widely different natures, backgrounds and origins, all had this in common – each found, in the East, glowing horizons of emotion and daring, whic ...more
georgia bookblast
These four very different, very individual, women who chose to flee the industrialised conventional West for Eastern climes is as vivid and seductive as when I first read it twenty years ago. Isabel Burton: obsessed by her wild explorer husband Richard Burton who brought the Kama Sutra to the English, and was the first European to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. Aimee Dubucq Rivery the cousin of Napoleon's wife Josephine who was kidnapped by pirates and ended ...more
I read this quite a few years ago - can't think how I missed adding it here. Its biggest flaw, in my opinion, was that a good bit of it was speculative. Blanch found 4 women whose stories she thought were really cool - but there wasn't (apparently, for her) enough material on them to give each her own book, or even write a whole lot about what they actually did. Instead, Blanch spends a lot of time talking about what things "must" have felt or been like for these women. This is especially true a ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading her wonderful Journey Into the Mind's Eye, I was disappointed with this. The four women seemed like cardboard figures, Aimee Dubucq de Ribery seemed like Blanch's concoction since she had no material from that time to go by, except the documented life and accomplishments of her son and that court, and the writing was poor, and it was often confusing.
Julie Du Brow
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
1st section/woman's story was too lengthy...but the rest were good length. Fascinating what these women each accomplished or how they directed themselves at that time. I vascilate to a 4* here. The research is amazing.
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow these women were much bolder than me and my friends more than 100 years later!
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
V romantic, seem to be more stories than biographies
Elka Ray
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adore this book and reread it every couple of years - the women are characters - rogues, misfits and dreamers who dared to defy the conventions of their times and live life on their own terms.
dreamer of art
This has become one of my favourite books and one I love to re-read. It's also made me want to read everything by Lesley Blanch - She was such an engaging storyteller.

"There have been many women who have followed the beckoning Eastern star."

Richard and Isabel Burton: This was the chapter that I most looked forward to, having had a fascination with especially Richard Burton for a long while, because of his translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Their chapter lived up to my expectations. One
Avery Cassell
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Wilder Shores of Love was published in 1954, and I first read it at the age of 15 in 1969. I was living with my parents on an archeological excavation in Iran, and greedily reading my way through the dig's library. The Wilder Shores of Love was included in the dig shelves of Ross Macdonald mysteries and Angélique historical romances.

At 15, I was enthralled by the dashing adventures of these four Victorian women who defied the boredom of their culturally prescribed lives to escape to the Mid
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a compilation of four mini-bios of women who lived from the 18th Century to the very early 20th Century. The thread that weaves these women's stories together is that their hearts and lives were inexorably bound to the Near East, and all bucked convention in one way or another.

As a biography, it was written far too subjectively to be very good. The author made too many conjectures about her subjects' motives and about the states of their minds without very strong supporting evidence
This is a fascinating book, about four fascinating women who lived lives far removed from the cultural norms of their own times, and perhaps even further from our modern reality and comprehension. The book was first published in 1954, by a Brit, so the writing can get a little precious at times. (Every so often, Blanch lapses into untranslated French and frequently makes obscure Classic/Euro-centric references, making me feel like a Total Cultural Illiterate, as opposed to the Partial Cultural I ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on the bookshelf when I was vacationing with my family in the South of France. (Wow, that is possibly one of the most pretentious sentences I've every written. But that's I was.) It's beautifully evocative, instantly transported you back through time, into the lives of these fascinating women. My only caveat is that it comes from that period of oriental exoticism which means it has some problematic racial issues for the modern reader
Jon Boorstin
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book has some terrific tales of women who prevailed over impossible circumstances. Particularly a French convent girl who was kidnapped by pirates and delivered to the Ottoman Sultan, who rose through the intrigues of the court to become the most powerful person in the empire. Much conjecture, but most persuasive. And liberating.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: muslim-societies
I heard about this book while reading Cleopatra's Wedding Present: Travels through Syria. It sounded perfect for me, mini biographies about four women who traveled the middle east in the 19th century. However it's almost unreadable, it's flowering language and questionable assertions make it almost laughable. I will look into other biographies of two of the women though.
Jan 25, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is not as trashy as it sounds!! It is the true accounts of four women who end up explorers, rather they intended to or not, well before their times. Very interesting and well worth the read.
Sam Critchley
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting subject. Though I read it many years ago, the section about Isabel Burton has always stuck in my mind. It even led me to visit their (Isabel and Sir Richard's) fascinatinc grave/mausoleum in Barnes.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at four women who were ahead of their times.
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Gotta love 19th century women. Who says they were all prudes? The four women in this well written book crafted lives that matched their spirits!
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Fascinating stories, but the flowery language and 1950s racism make the book a bit of a challenge.
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Read the first section last if at all.
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A scholarly romantic, Lesley Blanch influenced and inspired generations of writers, readers and critics. Her first book, The Wilder Shores of Love — the stories of four ninteenth-century women who followed the beckoning Eastern star — pioneered a new kind of group biography focusing on women escaping the boredom of convention. An instant classic, it has remained in print in English since first pub ...more
“Paris was the cross-roads of the world.” 1 likes
“She was an Amazon. Her whole life was spent riding at breakneck speed towards the wilder shores of love.” 1 likes
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