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Daughter of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell Paperback – Unabridged, 3 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (3 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330431579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330431576
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘What a great Oscar-laden biopic this will make …the combination of epic scenes and personal drama makes Georgina Howell’s saga a winner’ Roger Lewis, Daily Express

'Howell sketches in the gradations of colour and emotion that have been lacking in hitherto monochrome accounts of Bell's life ... Exemplary' Sunday Times

'You don't have to share Gertrude Bell's passions in order to be her biographer, but it helps' Daniel Johnson Sunday Telegraph Seven

'One reads this richly rewarding book wishing that Britain had a shred of the esteem it had in the Arab world in the days of Gertrude Bell.' Peter Lewis Daily Mail

'Journalist Georgina Howell readily admits to being a fan of the intrepid Victorian Gertrude Bell even before starting her biography... Drawing extensively on Bell's writings and personal letters, Howell draws up a detailed picture ob Bell's life and loves...In the current climate Bell's part in creating modern-day Iraq is particularly resonant.' Siobhan Murphy Metro London

‘Riveting. Howell’s mastery of an extremely complex network of events in the Middle East appears to be effortless; her portraits of the personalities involved, both British and Arab, are excellent … few women have had a life more worth reading about.’ Diana Athill, Literary Review

‘Her story is well known in the context of Middle-Eastern politics, but Georgina Howell humanizes the political woman by giving a full, engagingly written account of her privileged upbringing and frustrated love, while a young woman, for two men.’ The Times

‘[Daughter of the Desert] not only documents the life of one of the greatest female explorers of her time, but brings to life her indomitable character, with some well-chosen anecdotes and meticulous research. Here is a lesson in biography and travel writing …For anyone serious about becoming a travel writer this enchanting biography is a delight. It covers not only travel, but also how to take an adventure and turn it into a story.’ Writer’s Forum

‘This excellent biography of Gertrude Bell, the woman behind the

creation of modern Iraq, goes far towards making her a true heroine, a Gertrude of Arabia to match her friend, T.E. Lawrence … With a skill and clarity worthy of her heroine, Ms Howell evokes the diversity of religions, interests and traditions that Gertrude Bell understood so thoroughly. What emerges is a woman who, though officially part of the male world, never conformed to it.’ Economist

About the Author

Georgina Howell began working in magazine journalism at the age of seventeen and during her career held senior positions at the Observer , Vogue and Tatler before becoming a principal feature writer for the Sunday Times.

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Georgina on 11 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
I have just had the pleasure of reading Georgina Howell's and then Janet Wallach's biography, in quick succession. I am turning into something of a Gertrude fan! If you're looking for an accessible, entertaining insight into Gertrude as a person; then this is the book for you. Howell's heavy use of extracts from her letters and diaries allows Bell's wit and lyricism to shine through. This, interwoven with attractive prose combines to convey the incredible romance of her story; from her doomed love affairs, mountaineering exploits, desert adventures, translations of Sufi poetry, to her moving relationship with her Father. Howell's unashamedly partisan approach makes it all the more enjoyable for the reader!

She makes a point of including a detailed account of Bell's considerable mountaineering achievements which I found quite gripping. She was after all considered by many to be one the best, if not the best female climber of her time. I was glad to have been given insight into this part of her life. It makes you realise the level of frustration she must have experienced later on, when confined to a desk job during the early part of the first world war.

Howell runs into difficulty when tackling the politics that led to the birth of Iraq, in which of course Bell plays an integral role. I found her explanation a little confused. Maybe it suffered from having been condensed a little too much. She certainly doesn't attempt to place the events in some historical context, despite the obvious relevance to the current problems in the Middle East. Janet Wallach's account fared better at a clear explanation of the politics, but neither adequately weighed up her contribution to the success or failure of her newly created Iraq.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thoughtful reader on 30 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"I need a wife!"

How many busy working wives and mothers have uttered this lament since the era of Women's Lib started in the early 1980s? Yet we find that the same problem was encountered long ago by a woman of great wealth who was constantly surrounded by domestic employees and was even served by her own slaves. Howell's study of GB reveals that any person truly committed to lifelong pursuit of complex career goals needs lots of practical support to just keep their own daily life going.

This is the first biography that I have read, not being a fan of "history" as such. I knew nothing about the subject, GB, so I read the book with an open mind right from the start. It is therefore with surprise that I find myself comfortably awarding Howell's work a 5-star rating.

This rating recognizes the enormous scholarship and research conducted by Georgina Howell and Christopher Bailey (according to the dedication). This rating also recognizes the consistently even-handed analysis and tone throughout the biography.

At first I was uncomfortably aware of Howell's rather breathless admiration for her subject, but this was toned down fairly quickly into a more restrained attitude of analysis. Towards the end of the work, the pace seems to quicken, almost as though Howell wants to be done with the whole "opus." This is a pity because the closing section deals with the very complex period of post World War One history, featuring multiple actors with multiple agendas, much of which seems to be glossed over at times.

Regarding GB herself, like other commentators I admire her many natural gifts of intellect, energy, courage, and simple "stick-to-it-ness" (a typical characteristic of Yorkshire people).
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By M. Notman on 9 April 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had heard bits and pieces of Miss Bells life story, but until you read it in full you dont realise how before her time she was. From her early (VERY english) encounters with the bedouin of Arabia, to her sterling war work, her ardent love of mountaineering and attempts to prop up the newly instituted independant kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq she comes across as an indomitable and unstoppable force of nature. Given the current lamentable state of the middle east you cant help wishing she had been born a century later. What makes this even more poignant are her sad little attempts at romance with men that allow you to see the person beneath the matriach. Beautiful.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E. Davies on 20 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read biographies, but I was handed this on holiday and was completely captivated. Gertrude Bell is the most extraordinary woman and Georgina Howell writes simply but beautifully, making it impossible to put down. It's also a fantastic way to learn about the history of the British involvement in the Arab world and to understand many of the complexities which are still incredibly current today. I recommend it to everyone!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By guitar*man on 1 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book a lot as it informed me about the origins of the state of Iraq and about an interesting woman, Gertrude Bell. There are many other interesting characters such as TE Lawrence, the father of spy KIM philby, AT Johnson , Faisal, Ibn Saud etc

There were some things lacking , i felt, when i reached the end of the book:-

- Unbelievably, there is no review of Bell's legacy in Iraq in context of the later events in the country. The final part of the book rather skirted over the "election" to approve Faisal as King.
- It was not clear whether Bell was terminally ill from smoking before she died.
- I would have liked more about the downfall of the family steel business, Dorman Bell
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