Julie's Reviews > Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia. Janet Wallach

Desert Queen by Janet Wallach
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Jul 14, 11

Read from June 29 to July 13, 2011

I first heard about Bell, many years ago, but given that she played such an important part in the middle east, she is virtually unknown nowadays.
She was the daughter of wealthy industrialists and of course money being no object opened lots of doors which were closed to women at that time, educated at Oxford, she was an avid traveller and mountain climber, she was fluent in several languages and seems to have been self taught in archaeology.She was a complex person and although doing things women had to fight to do did not support the womens suffragette movement, as they would alienate the very people she had grown up with, rich male factory owners and fellow industrialists. The middle East became her life and although it seems she did not ever have a proper position or title, she was the one who met all the sheiks and leaders of the warring tribes and tried to bring them all together.There were too many people with their fingers in the mix it was never going to work out. She had quite a sad life as there were a couple of love affairs which ended sadly and she was a very lonely person, although i would think she was a very difficult person to get on with. Its funny how history has fixed on T.E Lawrence and completely wiped her out, i should imagine that there would be no trace of her now in Iraq (where she lived and worked )as there has been carnage at the main archaelogical sites and museums.
The book does illustrate how much power Britain had at that time and how the past is now responsible for the problems that have beset the region since then and how responsible Britain is for those problems. She did not come over as a particularly likeable person but i found the end particularly shocking and sad, and it was a shame she couldnt have retired in her beloved Iraq with her dogs and horses .
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