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Publisher's Summary

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author, poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer.

She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert, where she traveled with only her guns and her servants. Her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the Cairo Intelligence Office of the British government during World War I. She advised the Viceroy of India; then, as an army major, she traveled to the front lines in Mesopotamia. There, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne. Gertrude Bell, vividly told and impeccably researched by Georgina Howell, is a richly compelling portrait of a woman who transcended the restrictions of her class and times.

©2006 Manoir La Roche Ltd. (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The strength and delight of Howell's superb biography is in the fullness with which Bell's character is drawn." ( Publishers Weekly)

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amazing woman, history, detail, writing narrator

amazing woman history writing detail narrator everything 8 7 65 4 3 2 words remaining

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • IRP
  • Bedminster New Jersey
  • 08-05-18

Shattering The Glass Ceiling in Britain

This was an extremely well written book about a very remarkable woman who was very much ahead of her time. Born into family that made its money from manufacturing during the latter half of the British industrial revolution, Gertrude Bell refused to follow the script of a typical Victorian woman. Not only did she attend university but she graduated Oxford with honors and went to a career as an explorer and statesman(woman) during World War I and the subsequent development of the Middle East. In essence, she should be considered as one of the founding mothers of the modern Iraq as she worked with the British to create that state out of Mesopotamia and other adjacent portions of the old Ottoman empire. She was the rare woman at that time who succeeded by charisma, smarts and persistence to carve out a career for herself in a male dominated world. Her success came at a significant cost- she never married and although she was interested in two different men, neither led her to a successful domestic life (one man committed suicide while the other died at the Battle of Gallipoli during Word War One). The books is very well written and narrated. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the development of the modern Middle East as well as the story of a remarkable woman whose accomplishments were never as well recognized as they should have been. PS- if you have seen the movie "Dessert Queen" with Nicole Kidman, do not believe that the movie in any way mirrors the book. The book is much better.

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History comes alive

An amazing biography of a remarkable woman. Breathtaking in her capacity for life. History comes alive as we see how little we have learned from the past in the Middle East!