The Long Lost Journey
(London, Bloomsbury, hb 1989, pb 1991; San Francisco, Mercury House, 1990)
On Christmas Day, 1910, Elinor Grace, traveller, scholar and archaeologist, left Aden clandestinely for the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. Her goal was to uncover the truth about the Queen of Sheba’s legendary capital at Mareb on the fringes of Arabia’s Empty Quarter. But as she set sail from Aden she wondered why she had agreed to travel with the irascible Scot, James Fergusson. What were Fergusson’s true intentions? For a naturalist he had an uncommonly poor eye for wildlife. Why was he so intent on their joining forces, and why had she said yes when she was used to travelling alone?
The expedition was ill-fated from the start: an Arab revolt threatened and the Turkish authorities concluded that Elinor was a British spy. With the help of a sympathetic Vice-Consul, Miss Grace slipped the net of Turkish surveillance and, disguised as a poor Arab, headed with Fergusson into the interior.
Opinion has it that Elinor never reached her goal and that the expedition ended in failure. Jennifer Potter’s spellbinding story tells otherwise. The intrigue that has been erased from official files unnervingly unfolds against a cruel and haunted landscape, as Elinor journeys into depravity and betrayal and into the dark quarters of the heart.
‘It is an ingenious book … both original and gripping, with those disturbing undercurrents an author can create when she is prepared to eschew the obvious, employ a proper reticence, and invite her readers to look between the lines.’
‘The Long Lost Journey … has the compelling force of a nightmare which relents from time to time, only to plunge the central characters deeper into their self-creating circles of despair…’
‘Potter’s extraordinary account of political intrigue, sexual obsession and betrayal … immensely readable.’