Scandalous Life: The Biography of Janet Rigby

IT’S FINALLY OVER! This book should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as a torture device. Geez. Where to begin?

The subject: Jane Digby is presented by the author and by others as a feminist icon – a woman who was sexually free, an adventurer, and open to new experiences and ideas that most women in her age wouldn’t even dream of. The problem with that is it’s all a complete lie. Yes, Jane Digby had sex. With a lot of men. But here’s the pattern of the first 40 years of her life: Find a man that adores her. They have wild passionate romance and sex. They probably have a kid. Their passion (or his passion) dulls. She feels lonely. She finds someone new. They have wild passionate romance and sex. They probably have a kid. Man #1 says “hey, wait a minute!” so she packs up and leaves, happily abandoning her marriage/romance, child, country, religion, name, home, whatever she can think of, to be with man #2. Eventually man #2’s passion fades, and so on about 14 times. I don’t know about you, but a woman who is so desperately needy to be with a man that loves her that she literally abandons EVERYTHING to be with him — and that she does this SEVERAL TIMES throughout her twenties and thirties, is NOT my feminist hero. She’s the high school girl I watched flinging herself at the cars of ex-boyfriends, sobbing and begging them to take her back, and went “Ugh.”

Jane does eventually make her way to the middle east, where she marries Sheikh Medjuel, a man 20 years younger than her. Despite the fact that she now lives the freaking desert with a Bedouin tribe, this does not make the book more interesting (more on that below). The one honorable, courageous thing we see Jane do during these years is help people affected by a massacre in Damascus…EXCEPT we have no information on this first hand from Jane (Jane kept extensive and painfully boring diaries, all of which are quoted liberally in this book). All we know are rumors that reached one of her ex-husbands. Except the author already showed us earlier in the book that many of the rumors he heard weren’t remotely founded in truth. Therefore, although the author does not take Jane’s heroic acts with a grain of salt, I do.

The writing: Even with a completely unsympathetic heroine, I’m sure that with all the things Jane went through, this still could have been an exciting book. Too bad it wasn’t. Even when we hit Damascus and she’s married to a man who goes on MONTHS LONG DESERT RAID BATTLES WITH OTHER TRIBES it’s boring boring boring. The author sees no reason to follow anyone who’s not Jane, even for a paragraph, and Jane spends most of her time not out in the desert with her husband but in a house in Damascus. So while her husband is off doing awesome, romance-hero shit, we’re stuck listening to Jane complain about the housekeeper. When we do hear about his stuff, it’s usually in quotes from Jane’s diaries, who writes about them like business transactions and squabbles. And while I’m sure that ultimately that’s what they were her husband is MAKING WAR AND RAIDING OTHER TRIBES IN 140 DEGREE WEATHER OMG and do we get to have fun? No. The author does a similar thing when discussing the Turkish harems — Jane is apparently one of the only European women in the 19th century to have a real understanding of these harems, but do we get to hear anything about what these Turkish harems are like? No. All we hear about is how Jane pitied them, and thought they were sexual slaves, and would listen to the girls’ worries sometimes. I DON’T WANT JANE’S OPINION, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HAREMS.

Basically, the first half of Jane Digby’s life was spent hurling herself at whatever man would have her next, and then abandoning everything to hurl herself at the next one, and the second half of her life was spent living something right out of The Sheik, if the heroine in The Sheik had spent most of her time in a comfy house in Damascus ordering around gardeners, arranging dinners, and bickering with her


Jonathan Mary Lovell is not an author I would advise one to seek out. I read 175 pages of her book on the Mitford Sisters and found it just plain boring. Your review of this Lovell masterpiece had me rolling! Sorry your time was wasted.

Shera This review is hilarious because I totally get it. I’m not done reading it yet and plan on finishing because to me, it’s not that bad. I do agree that she’s a flighty idiot I would loathe to be friends with, but I guess that’s what makes it interesting to me. I’m too level headed to jump from baby daddy to baby daddy. So in that regard, and the fact that she’s obviously brave enough to go galavanting around the middle east it’s intriguing. I haven’t however gotten to the part where she marries the dessert sheikh and stays home complaining about harems! Thanks for the warning. I’d give it more stars so far but we shall see!

I get

Julie Stephens 

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Great review MAP! how about 5 stars to you for making it to the end!

Jemidar I

MAP I would like to point out that almost every other very wrong!! 🙂

Sabrina Removing this one from my tbr

MAP Nope, nothing extraordinary (or even bordering on interesting) in her childhood. I’m no Freudian, but there were no daddy issues or anything.

Karla Feel better? I know I do, having read that awesome rant. The last bit about The Sheik nearly killed me. 😀

And she thought harem girls were sexual slaves? Excuse me? Seems like she was a slave to something called her hormones and hyperactive fear of solitude. Was there any speculation by the author about her upbringing that might have fostered this sexual neediness? That’s a huge question right there.

Sabrina Ditto!

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Whew!! Done! but oh dear..1 star..guess III pass on this one.




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