4 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful
Ronda - reviewed Desert Queen : The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia on + 213 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I love books about female explorers from other times, but I just cannot get into this one. I liked "Passionate Nomad-the Life of Freya Stark" much better. Bell was a contemporary of Lawrence of Arabia, Stark was inspired by him, so she came later. Stark's own books about her adventures are fabulous, her biography less so, and it is the same with Bell. I've been slogging through this one for two weeks and just finally gave up. Maybe it gets better.
Michael V. (mikevero) reviewed Desert Queen : The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia on
Helpful Score: 1
The extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia
With all of the news from and about Iraq over the last 20 years, how many of us have had any idea how the country was formed and who was involved? How many of us had a clue that the most influential person within the formation of this country was a woman? Considering the fact that she was in the middle of a very male dominated Arab world and a male dominated English world, it makes it more astonishing.
Gertrude Bell was the daughter of a wealthy, English businessman who, at an early age displayed an intellect and iron will that would overwhelm most men who expected a certain amount of subservience from their women. Attractive and very feminine, she had no shortage of suitors, but a dearth of anyone who could hold her interest. Of her 2 real loves, the first was killed at a young age and the second was already married, and they would not violate his marriage vows.
At an early age, Gertrude began developing an interest and love for the Arab world and archaeology in particular. During her many trips to the Middle East, she developed friendships and relationships with sheiks, rulers, kings, etc. Because of this, she became a fount of information regarding the Middle East. With Englands interest in the region, she became sought after by English leaders wanting to know how to operate in the area. There was, simply, no one else who had her relationships with leaders and her information. This was crucial during World War I, when she worked as a spy for British Intelligence. England was in sore need of the regions oil and they needed her abilities to establish and maintain local relationships.
After the war, she was instrumental in picking King Faisal (who had been King of French controlled Syria) as the new leader of Iraq, and was also integral in enlisting local support for the foreigner and was the person who actually had the most influence in deciding the borders for the new country. Think about it, pulling in some guy from somewhere else and making him King of the country. No small task. She actually taught him how to be an Iraqi.
During all of this, she maintained a lifelong friendship with T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and was regularly consulted by the likes of Winston Churchill. Gertrude was the only woman who attended The Cairo Conference of 1921, and was referred to as Mesopotamias uncrowned Queen by the New York Herald.
Janet Wallach does a terrific job of, not only describing the life of an amazing woman, but describing, in detail, a portion of history that takes place during and after World War I that is fascinating.
Elizabeth O. reviewed Desert Queen : The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia on
I really enjoyed learning about the life of Gertrude Bell and all her accomplishments but over all this book was a little too political for me. The first half of the book follows Bell's early explorations and does a great job of pulling the reader into the world of early 20th century Arabia. However, I found the second half of the book much more difficult to read.
Wallach goes on long tangents of the complex and delicate political situation of Iraq following World War I. I understand these dealings were a central part of Bell's life but these sections dragged on and on and made the book very difficult to finish.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Middle Eastern politics and for those who are not, be prepared to perhaps skip a few chapters.