Victoria Jelinek

Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell

indexAn English friend of mine loaned me this “must read” book because she had so thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted me to share in the experience. Indeed, Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell is fascinating because Bell is a strong female character and the Middle East remains relevant.

The book begins with Bell’s birth in 1868 to industrialists in the North of England. Outspoken and quick-witted, she became a historian, a linguist, an “Arabist,” an archaeologist, a mountaineer, an author, and a photographer. After many explorations into the Arabian deserts and a passion for Arabian culture, she became one of the architects for an independent kingdom in Iraq, helping to put its first king, Faisal, safely onto the throne in 1921.

Queen of the Desert is superbly researched and includes Bell’s own writing, both published and unpublished. However, while I admired Bell’s courage and persistence, I was not particularly intrigued by her personal story. Even as she was a woman in a man’s world who achieved things most women wouldn’t dream of, she was the daughter of an extremely privileged family with immense resources at her disposal. Instead, I found the information about the history and politics of the region captivating. The insight into the historical meddling from foreign countries, the social protocols of the desert, the diverse sects that abound throughout the Middle East, and their respective perceptions of the world as well as their feudal wars, are, in my opinion, the most engrossing aspects of this book. The information gained from reading Queen of the Desert also made me realize that the challenges that existed at the turn of the 20th century in the Middle East still exist today.


6 Comments so far
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Brava Victoria, very interesting! You are a talented writer , i love Reading your posts And article

Inviato da iPhone


Comment by

Thank you my dear, for your loyalty and for taking the time to post a comment!

Comment by victoriakjelinek

I saw the film! Mainly because it was directed by Herzog…..but I bet the book is much more informative and exciting in terms of all of the events in the Middle East at that time. Thanks for the recommendation!

Comment by starlingdarling

Thank you for reading the review and for taking the time to comment! And an adaptation by Herzog!? Thank YOU for the recommendation…

Comment by victoriakjelinek

Very fine book report, telling its contents without summarizing them,

pointing out the relevance of that area today, not just recounting the

“exotic” and extraordinary trip of a woman (and pointing out her extraordinary

help from wealthy father).

I read that book a decade or so ago, not imagining the potential importance of that part of the world to the West and Middle East. Worth re-reading. ________________________________

Comment by Barbara Jelinek

Thank you Mom!

Comment by victoriakjelinek

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