Blue Desert is a hauntingly beautiful novel about Alice, a young Englishwoman whose family moves to Morocco in 1910. After a car accident, she is rescued by the Tuareg, a nomadic tribe of the Sahara. As she travels with their caravan, Alice learns to love the freedom of their lifestyle, so different from the constricted upper-class British society she knows. Then she falls in love with Abu, the leader of the caravan, and bears his child.
As World War I rages, Alice is forced to return home, leaving her son behind. She has a hard time adjusting to her former lifestyle, and she never speaks of her experiences in the Sahara to anyone, not even her husband Martin, a prominent diplomat. Then, in 1970, Alice receives a telegram saying Abu is dead and her son is coming to England. As her past catches up with her, she begins to tell her family about her life in the desert, and Martin pieces together what she leaves unsaid.
Celia Jeffries’ prose is lyrical, almost like poetry, and she makes you feel the heat of the desert, see the colors of the sand, and even taste the Moroccan food. You feel as if you are in the Sahara with Alice. Alice is a strong, independent heroine who rebels against conventional society as a young girl and embraces the freedom of the desert. Abu, her Tuareg lover, is an enigmatic figure, obviously drawn to Alice, and yet he has a violent side, which you glimpse in one shocking moment. I was fascinated by the Tuareg society, where the women hold power and property, and the men wear blue veils, from which they earn their nickname “the blue men of the desert,” and travel across the Sahara in caravans. I highly recommend this book.