Sweet Boy Dear Wife: Jane Dieulafoy in Persia 1881-1886
by Heather Rossiter (Wakefield Press, $AU39.95)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan
This is a true story of a French couple’s amazing archaeological expeditions in the late nineteenth century in what is now Iran and Iraq. They travelled over 6000 kilometres, mostly on horseback with long mule trains carrying their baggage across country largely devoid of formed roads, usually in convoy with local travellers. Both Jane and Marcel suffered life threatening illnesses at times while travelling. These delayed but did not deter them. They excavated a vast quantity of antiquities and brought back spectacular examples to the Louvre. Though largely unknown outside France, Jane Dieulafoy received the Legion of Honour for her archaeological work: when she died in 1916 she was described in The New York Times as the “most remarkable woman in France and perhaps in all Europe”.
Heather Rossiter, who has studied Eastern and Oriental art and Islamic monuments and travelled extensively in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia has based this book mainly on Jane’s diaries and another book that she published on her return to France. These incorporated engravings made from her many photographs, several of which Rossiter has reproduced in this book, to great effect. Jane was an avid photographer and took her unwieldy photographic equipment everywhere.