Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations (First American Edition)

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Synopsis

A marvelous tale of an adventurous life of great historical import


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 (of Persian Pictures, The Desert and the Sown, and many other collections), poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer (she took off her skirt and climbed the Alps in her underclothes).


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 and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state. 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, and in so doing, created a remarkable and enduring legacy.

 

About Georgina Howell

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Georgina Howell has worked in magazine journalism since the age of seventeen. She has written for Vanity Fair and American Vogue, and has worked at The Observer, British Vogue, The Tatler, and The Sunday Times. She lives in London and Brittany.
 
Published April 1, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 532 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Gertrude Bell

Kirkus Reviews

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Restless, uneasy with the debutante’s role, Bell, a brilliant, rebellious student, craved a mission in life and found solace in climbing mountains, studying archaeology and learning languages.

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Publishers Weekly

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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

Feb 19 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

The New York Times

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A biography of the British woman who created modern-day Iraq.

Apr 29 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

The Guardian

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'I said to myself, "If only that great blue turban of yours would fall off and leave you sitting there with a bald head, I should think you just like everyone else."' As an exercise in diplomacy, it was unsuccessful - al-Sadr's son was soon leading a revolt against the occupying British army - bu...

Sep 03 2006 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

Publishers Weekly

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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, cartographe...

Feb 19 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

NPR

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Nancy Pearl recommends Georgina Howell's riveting biography of Gertrude Bell to biography fans, history buffs, or any reader with an interest in the deep background of events playing out in the Middle East today.

Jul 24 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

Entertainment Weekly

Missing the benefit of an influential journalist to report on her adventures through Arabia or a glamorizing biopic starring the femme equivalent of Peter O'Toole, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) is relatively unknown to Americans, even when touted as ''the female Lawrence of Arabia.'' Gertrude Bell: Q...

Apr 13 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

The New York Review of Books

This country, created in 1920 from the three Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul, which were conquered and occupied by the British during World War I, was given the status of a British mandate and called Iraq.

Oct 25 2007 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

Story Circle Book Reviews

Bell's later life was so intertwined with the founding of Iraq that the details of the political struggle cannot be left out.

Feb 24 2008 | Read Full Review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the D...

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