Lesley Blanch, a Londoner by birth, spent the greater part of her life travelling about those remote areas her books record so vividly. She was an astute observer of places and people their quirks, habits and passions. This selection of her early journalism, essays and traveller’s tales forms an irresistible sequel to her posthumous memoirs, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life.
Savvy, self-possessed, talented and successful, Lesley Blanch was a bold and daring writer; travelling at a time when women were expected to be subservient to the needs of husbands and children. Illustrated with photos and a selection of Blanch’s line drawings and with an insightful introduction by Blanch’s god-daughter, Far to Go and Many to Love: People and Places brings together writings on subjects as various as Vivien Leigh, polygamy and the Orient Express. She remembers life in post-war Bulgaria with her husband, the diplomat-novelist Romain Gary, and Christmas in Mexico with him. Specific places were of particular significance to her: the Sahara, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Central Asia. Her descriptions make for disturbing reading given the cumulative impact of a century of war on the Middle East.
What I Thought:
To my shame and my cost, I rarely read non-fiction books, but when I do, I tend to enjoy reading about women who kick arse, and in Far to Go & Many to Love, Lesley Blanch confirms her membership of this club with her superb, descriptive writing.
In this new collections of her writings, Blanch’s god-daughter, Georgia de Chamberet lovingly curates a collection of images, illustrations and text creating both a beautiful book, and also a contemporary record of an age that has long since passed.
The first chapter of the book tells some of Lesley’s history – her time at art school, and her career designing sets and costumes for the Ballets Russe, mixing with escaped White Russians, and her tumultuous affair with the Traveller. It then moves on to her married life, and the beginnings of her wanderlust that led her around the globe, but back time and again to the Middle East.
Reading Lesley’s own writings on her time in the Middle East and the people she saw there, it’s clear that among her love affairs, the one she had with the region is just as real. Some of her descriptions of the ancient sites and relics she observed are more poignant, bearing in mind the devastating wars ongoing in that region, and the awful news of the destruction of some of the those sites, such as Palmyra. Through Lesley’s beautiful descriptions, we can get a sense of these monuments that is just not possible now.
Whether writing about people or places, Lesley Blanch’s writing is arresting and has real life to it – her piece about Vivien Leigh is a particular favourite of mine and, as I said, the whole collection is put together with such love and respect, that it is a fantastic introduction to the work of a remarkable woman.
The blog tour for Far to Go & Many to Love is ongoing, with the brilliant blogs below involved, with some fantastic, exclusive content, so please do give them a look if you can.
Please Note: I received a review copy of the book to aid participation in the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.