Starred Review. In this hefty, thoroughly enjoyable biography of Gertrude Bell (1868–1926), English journalist Howell describes her subject as not only "the most famous British traveler of her day, male or female" but as a "poet, scholar, historian, mountaineer, photographer, archaeologist, gardener, cartographer, linguist and distinguished servant of the state." As Howell observes, "Gertrude always had to have a project," and she manages to bring those multitudinous projects, studies and adventures to life on the page. "I decided," Howell writes, "to use many more of her own words than would appear in a conventional biography": a felicitous decision when the subject's letters, diaries and publications are as seamlessly incorporated in Howell's engaging text as they are. Bell's role in the creation of Iraq and the placement of Faisal upon the throne, is fully detailed, both to honor her power and to haunt us today. But the strength and delight of Howell's superb biography is in the fullness with which Bell's character is drawn. Having clearly fallen in love with her subject (though not blind to her warts), Howell leaves no stone unturned—family history, school days, Bell's clothes, sometimes her meals, her friendships, her servants, her thousands of miles traveled, her fluency in languages (Persian, Turkish, Arabic) and, yes, her romances. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* The breadth and depth of Gertrude Bell's accomplishments are extraordinary. Born to British industrial wealth and civic prominence during the Victorian era, she possessed boundless self-confidence, courage, and vitality. The first woman to earn top honors in history at Oxford, Bell was fluent in six languages, and became an intrepid traveler and celebrated mountaineer. Tragically unlucky in love, she romanced the world instead. Discovering her spiritual home in the Middle East, Bell transformed herself into a cartographer, archaeologist, writer, and photographer as she undertook perilous journeys to fabled desert outposts, commanding the respect of powerful Bedouin sheikhs. During World War I, Bell became the expert on Mesopotamia for British military intelligence, and a more crucial force in the forming of modern Iraq than that of her friend, T. E. Lawrence. From Cairo to Basra to Baghdad, Bell, against fierce adversity, devoted herself to justice. Howell writes with all the verve, historical veracity, and acumen her intoxicating subject demands--her spectacular biography leaves the reader lost in admiration and steeped in sorrow. It seems that all the profound knowledge about the culture of the desert Bell placed herself in jeopardy to gather was promptly forgotten. Donna Seaman
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Amazing woman, amazing story. A bit long, but she did a lot in a short time!Published 18 days ago by Lisa
An amazing story about an amazing woman. With all the turmoil in the Middle East today I was curious about the origins of the Balkanization of what was once Arabia. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Walter L. Perry
I loved the history that was in the book, but it was a book that required a lot of concentration to read. Certainly not one of those books that you just couldn't put down. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Judith Winter
“When Aunt Mary invited her to join the Lascelleses again, this time in Persia, she was ecstatic. It would be her first encounter with the East. Read morePublished 1 month ago by CBR
Amazing woman and the biography is well written. Perhaps a little heavy on personal details but it does nake her even more fascinating.Published 1 month ago by John P. Tindall
The book arrived in poor condition but it did not stop me from enjoying the read.
( a fourth class copy ~ spine broken and pages falling out. Read more
An outstanding biography and an equally valuable look into the dynamics of the Middle East. This is one of the books you should read if you want to understand the confused... Read morePublished 3 months ago by William R. Thompson