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Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell

por Janet Wallach

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1,1442317,173 (3.86)93
Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

Turning her back on her privileged life in Victorian England, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), fired by her innate curiosity, journeyed the world and became fascinated with all things Arab. Traveling the length and breadth of the Arab region, armed with a love for its language and its people, she not only produced several enormously popular books based on her experiences but became instrumental to the British foreign office. When World War I erupted, and the British needed the loyalty of the Arab leaders, it was Gertrude Bell's work and connections that helped provided the brain for T. E. Lawrence's military brawn. After the war she participated in both the Paris and Cairo conferences, played a major role in creating the modern Middle East, and was generally considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.



In this incident-packed biography, Janet Wallach reveals a woman whose achievements and independent spirit were especially remarkable for her times, and who brought the same passion and intensity to her explorations as she did to her rich romantic life. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence's fame, Gertrude Bell emerges in this first major biography as a woman whose accomplishments rank as crucial to world history (especially in light of the continuing geopolitical importance of the Middle East) and whose life was a grand adventure.

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Mostrando 1-5 de 22 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This book was barely OK, almost, "I hated it." The author seemed to believe she was writing a romance, and a biography slithered in. She writes a tremendous amount about the clothing the protagonist/subject wore; she makes amazing leaps to conclusions about what she felt. I could not get through the book, although I understand that the subject was a fascinating and extraordinary person. ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
Gertrude Bell was amazing. In a day when women were expected to be “politely educated,” married, and subservient, Bell was single, Oxford-educated, a mountain climber, and a desert explorer.

After teaching herself Arabic, she braved the deserts of pre-World War I Mesopotamia and Arabia with a few servants and her guns. She dined with sheiks and caliphs who normally would not discourse with a woman. She even earned their respect.

During and after the Great War, she was a champion of self-government by Arab people. She worked with her friend, Lawrence of Arabia, to further the Arab voice in the region. Ultimately, their efforts led to a newly formed country of Iraq with an Arab, Faisal I, on the throne.

While her story is amazing, Wallach doesn’t present her as Wonder Woman. Rather, Bell is described as a human with flaws who wants to be a Person, to be someone of consequence. She succeeds in some areas, like politics, more than others, like romance.

I found the book fascinating and truly difficult to put down. Learning from the books I read is important to me. Here I learned a lot about Arab culture and the history of Western interference in the modern Middle East. While I doubt I would have been friends with Bell if I had known her, I found much to admire and astonish. The end of Bell's life was disappointing and surprising. ( )
  Library_Lin | Dec 26, 2022 |
This was an excellent look at the life of the uncrowned queen of the desert, Gertrude Bell. Bell lived her life as a love letter to Mesopotamia and the peoples found therein. In this book, we follow Gertrude as she embarks on her first visit to the Middle East and discovers something inside herself that she never knew existed. Letters written by Bell enhance the overall feel of the book. One of the things I especially enjoyed about the book was the story of the beginnings of the Iraqi monarchy and a few of the characters within its royal family. Gertrude's savvy and acumen concerning the various Bedouin tribes helped determine the borders of nations and set kings upon thrones.

Very engaging and very highly recommended. ( )
  briandrewz | Feb 5, 2022 |
This detailed biography of Gertrude Bell shows what an amazing person she was. In an era when women didn't even travel alone to lunch, she blazed trails where few Europeans and no Victorian-era women had ever been. She was brilliant, fluent in multiple languages, and extraordinarily self-confident. She became the first woman to get a first-class degree in modern history at Oxford, the first woman ever to travel alone in the Syrian desert, and the first female officer in British military intelligence.

She became fascinated by the Middle East as a young girl and as soon as she was able, she began visiting, mapping and writing about several important ancient sites. She ventured out among the Arabs, intent on making friends among them. Originally sent to the East to “find” a husband she decided she would rather advance British interests in the Arabian peninsula. She became the power broker in post WW1 Iraq and was named oriental secretary to the British High Commission.

The author has meticulously detailed Gertrude's travels, and some details get a little repetitive. That did not take away even one moment of my intense interest in her story. If the purpose of “Expanding our Cultural Horizons' is to learn more about a country, it's people and the culture, Desert Queen definitely fits the bill. I've owned this book for several years but never really paid that much attention to it. I'm so glad this challenge pointed me in Gertrude's direction.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jul 2, 2020 |
A fascinating look at a very unique woman in the Middle East before, during and after the first world war. It is hard to keep all the characters straight in your head, but learning about the events that occurred during her time gives one a better understanding why the ME is the way it is today. ( )
  addunn3 | Sep 24, 2019 |
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

Turning her back on her privileged life in Victorian England, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), fired by her innate curiosity, journeyed the world and became fascinated with all things Arab. Traveling the length and breadth of the Arab region, armed with a love for its language and its people, she not only produced several enormously popular books based on her experiences but became instrumental to the British foreign office. When World War I erupted, and the British needed the loyalty of the Arab leaders, it was Gertrude Bell's work and connections that helped provided the brain for T. E. Lawrence's military brawn. After the war she participated in both the Paris and Cairo conferences, played a major role in creating the modern Middle East, and was generally considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.



In this incident-packed biography, Janet Wallach reveals a woman whose achievements and independent spirit were especially remarkable for her times, and who brought the same passion and intensity to her explorations as she did to her rich romantic life. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence's fame, Gertrude Bell emerges in this first major biography as a woman whose accomplishments rank as crucial to world history (especially in light of the continuing geopolitical importance of the Middle East) and whose life was a grand adventure.

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