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Philby of Arabia: St.John Philby Paperback – 16 Apr 1998
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About the Author
Monroe, as a journalist and as a scholar, traveled in all the countries in which Philby worked.
Mary Alice Monroe is the"New York Times" bestselling author of thirteen novels, including "The Butterfly's Daughter, The Beach House, Time is a River, "and" Last Light over Carolina".
She found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal -->-->South Carolina-->-->.? Already a successful author, she was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that was quickly changing gave her a strong and important focus for her books.? Her latest novel, "The Butterfly's Daughter (May 2011)", is set against the phenomenal migration of the endangered monarch butterfly.? She has also explored the problems of endangered sea turtles ("The Beach House, Swimming Lessons, "and her first children's book", Turtle Summer"), raptors ("Skyward"), the indigenous grass and endangered coastal ecosystem of South Carolina ("Sweetgrass"), the rivers and mountains of North Carolina ("Time is a River), "and the disappearing world of the coastal shrimping industry" (Last Light over Carolina)".
Mary Alice is an active conservationist who is a board member of the South Carolina Aquarium and is a member of the Isle of Palms/Sullivan's Island Turtle Team.? For more information, visit her website www.maryalicemonroe.com.
Top customer reviews
Philby much respected greatness, and quickly took to the astonishingly intelligent chieftain Ibn Sa'ood, founder of what is now known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and father of the present day ruler King Abdullah. Until this point Philby had been an outspoken, yet fiercly loyal, civil servant; however soon his insight into British foreign policy and aspirations for the region, and his friendship with the soon-to-be king created an inner turmoil requiring all of his skills as a diplomat to resolve. Monroe skilfully shows how succesfully (or not) he worked to resolve these issues, and the suspicion he aroused from both parties. The situation was further exasperated by Philby's conversion to Islam, a move that caused waves in the Civil Service and added to the complexities and contradictions of Philby's life and charachter.
This book is a must for any budding Arabist, or anyone with an interest in the contemporary Arab world. It was a time of great intrigue, the last days of Mesopotamia and a time in which actors such as Cox, Bell, Leachman, Shakespeare and Lawrence each took influential and history defining roles.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is well researched and well written. It takes you through the birth pangs of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Irak and covers a span from World War I to the reign of Ibn Saud's successor, King Saud. It also tells in a riveting way about Philby's desert exploration ventures, most notably in South Arabia's Empty Quarter and its borders with Yemen and the British Protectorate of Aden.
The author brings to life Philby's character, his peculiar family life and, most interestingly, his conversion to Islam.
I have found this book essential for a better understanding of Arabia and of Islam.
On the negative side, the printing of this edition -in a non-English-speaking country- leaves much to be desired: there are far too many typos which take away some of the reading enjoyment. Also, the maps are succint and could have been somewhat more generous. These two factors account for my holding back the 5th star!
Monroe is an interesting writer, and takes an even more interesting view of Philby and his world. The author adopts the attitude that if Philby doesn't know about something, or it doesn't happen within his view, then she leaves it out of the account of his life. So, as a for instance, Philby was, according to the author, very close to the British Arabist of the teens and 20s Gertrude Bell. However, when they fell out of touch, she leaves the narrative without another mention of her. Her tragic suicide isn't mentioned. The same goes for T.E.Lawrence, who was more of a contemporary than a friend; as long as he has a part to play in the narrative he's there, but his decade-long exile isn't mentioned, nor his death in a motorcycle accident in 1935. Philby's son, Kim, is only mentioned as working in the Foreign Office, when in fact he was a relatively senior figure in Britain's intelligence community: in the early 1950s, he was MI6 Chief of Station in North America, a post that was usually assigned to those who would next be the chief of British intelligence. Instead, suspicion he was a spy led to his retirement, and ultimately defection. Beyond mentioning the retirement (amid "rumors" of his disloyalty) the author mentions none of this in the book, apparently thinking that it has no bearing on Philby's life itself. The strange thing, of course, is that when the son's defection occurred, the father's eccentricities were put forward as a possible explanation. Apparently there's some recent scholarship that suggests that Kim was originally recruited by the Soviets to spy on his father, who was at that time at the height of his influence in Saudi Arabia.
This is a well-written, valuable book, in spite of the blinders the author adopted when viewing Kim's treason and the facts surrounding it. Since it's the only book on Philby available in English, it's a surprise it's not more available, though I suppose that his obscurity makes this inevitable: I guess part of my point is that he shouldn't be so obscure in the first place.
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