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Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc. (AU)
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Bell of the Desert: A Novel Kindle Edition
|Length: 567 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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A superb account of a historical woman.” Historical Novel Society --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
Alan Gold continues as an influential columnist for the Spectator, the Australian, and other highly regarded magazines and related media. He appears regularly in the media as a commentator on human rights and international politics. Several of his twenty-plus books have been optioned for movies. Alan lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and three children.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B00NS42DLY
- Publisher : Yucca; Reprint edition (18 November 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 1495 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 567 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 196,972 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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And if Gertrude Bell had not been a woman, the immediate aftermath of the war may also have been quite different as she battled the male dominant hierarchy of British army generals ignorant of the history and culture of the Arab nations.
Author Alan Gold has made his name writing about the forgotten women of history. The book is written almost as an auto-biography, cleverly constructing scenes and dialogue as a first hand account of events. As such there is no doubt quite a bit of ‘poetic license’, but that doesn’t detract from the accuracy of the overall narrative, quite the contrary.
Apart from being exceptionally intelligent, Gertrude Bell also had the distinct advantage of coming from a very well-to-do and well connected industrialist family. Her grandfather was Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, a Liberal MP during Benjamin Disraeli’s second term as Prime Minister, and her father was Sir Hugh Bell, who with a title of 2nd Baronet was (almost) to be counted as gentry.
Money and connections enabled her to study at Oxford and she was one of the first two women to graduate with a first class honours degree in history, when she was only 19. Never married – another factor that made her achievements in those times even more extraordinary – she started travelling the world at an early age. She developed a passion for archaeology and mountaineering (Gertrudspitze in the Swiss Alps near Bern is named after her – being one of the first to ascend it).
But her first and enduring interest was in the lands of the Arabs – Persia, Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia as it was known then – borders fluid and very different to the lines later drawn up by men in the smoky map rooms of the war planners and at “peace” conferences.
Gertrude Bell learnt the languages, befriended the kings, princes and sheiks of the region and made it her life’s work to understand what so many of her countrymen did not bother to. Some of the top brass did appreciate her contributions, but most were, of course, threatened by the mere thought of a woman of knowledge and influence.
Neither T E Lawrence nor Gertrude Bell were supporters of the Sykes-Picot agreement or the Balfour Declaration, which in hindsight both proved to be disastrous for the region. I doubt if there ever was a greater example of “divide and conquer” than the British (and French) strategy in the Middle East during and after the First World War. It was all about the oil, of course, making sure that no Arab nation would be strong enough by itself. “Solving” the “Jewish problem” was just a side effect. The world is still suffering from the consequences.
Bell of the Desert provides excellent insights into all of these events, places the various combatants and participants in context and illuminates the history. It is also a most enjoyable read (or ‘listen’ as I did). The author cannot hide his love and admiration for Ms Bell, and it is hard for the reader not to join in. There are doubtless embellishments in the narrative – events and conversations that the author could not possibly be privy to. But it works as a great yarn whilst providing fascinating insights into an extraordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances.
PS> The movie “The Queen of the Desert” is no way of getting to know and understand Gertrude Bell. It is as narrow in scope as (lead actress) Nicole Kidman’s facial expressions.
Gold has covered himself with his description of the work as a "novel" but as history and fiction are today closely associated in a new genre which blurs the boundaries between the two, there are many other authors who do a far better job by basing their work on extensive documentation. History is after all, interpretation, but it is better packaged when we can discern the basis on which it is presented to us. Unfortunately Gold has chosen imagination over substance.
Top reviews from other countries
Alan Gold has brought to life someone who has been obscured from history for too long. Her valiant efforts to bring together a nation of people’s in the Arabian desert areas was nothing if not extraordinary in those times of the early twentieth century.
Being marginalised at every turn her determination, intellect, knowledge and foresight were finally recognised, then once events had taken place put back into the shadows again.
Her final days must have been very sad thinking about what great achievements she’d made to be ignored by all those who meant so much to her.
Thank you to the author who has given this remarkable woman a new life in his book.