Read Bell of the Desert: The Life and Times of Gertrude Bell, The Woman Who Created Iraq by Alan Gold Online


A grand historical novel about Gertrude Bell, one of the most influential women of the 20th century.She was the most celebrated adventurer of her day, the brains be¬hind Lawrence of Arabia, an advisor to kings and desert sheiks, and the British Government’s secret weapon in WWI in the campaign against the Turks. A brilliant academic, mountaineer, explorer, linguist, politiA grand historical novel about Gertrude Bell, one of the most influential women of the 20th century.She was the most celebrated adventurer of her day, the brains be¬hind Lawrence of Arabia, an advisor to kings and desert sheiks, and the British Government’s secret weapon in WWI in the campaign against the Turks. A brilliant academic, mountaineer, explorer, linguist, politician and towering literary figure, Gertrude Bell is most significant unsung heroine of the 20th Century.Alan Gold’s meticulously researched novel accurately opens history’s pages on a peerless woman who broke all molds on how Victorian women were supposed to behave—socially, intellectually, and physically. Guiding the events of the day in open, sanctioned, diplomacy and adventure all across the Middle East, her influence on the men at the vanguard of history, and her unparalleled skill in sculpting the pathways and influences of the English, French and Arab allies on the region, all lead to perhaps her greatest achievement: single-handedly creating today’s Iraq. Told as a biographical narrative of history, Alan Gold reveals that, more than any other single figure, it was this extraordinary woman who most determinedly fashioned the Arab world as we know it today....

Title : Bell of the Desert: The Life and Times of Gertrude Bell, The Woman Who Created Iraq
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781631580079
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Bell of the Desert: The Life and Times of Gertrude Bell, The Woman Who Created Iraq Reviews

  • Margaret
    2019-05-18 00:53

    *I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.Gertrude Bell was a woman before her time and reading this historical fiction based upon this remarkable woman came across very well as a fictionalized biography. I truly love books that inspire me and encourages me to discover more about who or what I am reading about. What I liked about the book was the way that the author handled bringing Gertrude Bell front and center in our story. Her curiosity and drive not to be held back because of her sex was thoroughly outlined. This book was chocked full of adventure and bits of information about Arabia and its' people. Politics was par for the course in such an undertaking writing about such an important figure in history. My patience waned at times with the political maneuvering but I don't hold it against the book, it is a personal disinterest on my part. The story was wrapped up quite nicely and you had a good sense of what Gertrude had done for that part of the world. She rubbed elbows and locked minds with many historical figures such as Harry Lawrence also known as Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill. I did find that the many references to her sexual escapades did tax my patience but I think that the majority of the public are interested in such details but personally I found it taxing and quite unnecessary. Overall it is a good read, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in history, adventure, women who have overstepped their rigid roles of the time and in the Middle East.

  • Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
    2019-04-29 21:07

    It's taken quite a while, by my standards, to read Bell Of The Desert and unfortunately I did feel as though I was having to plough through the latter chapters. As I received the novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my review, I did feel obligated to finish it and there are some good points, but the writing style wasn't really to my taste.Bell Of The Desert is a fictionalised biography of Gertrude Bell, an amazing explorer, archaeologist and politician in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was widely respected throughout the Middle East at the time, although her guarding of her privacy means that she is now far less famous than contemporaries such as T E Lawrence (of Arabia). I do hope the forthcoming Nicole Kidman film doesn't make her famous again for shallow reasons!Alan Gold has obviously deeply researched parts of his novel and the complicated political webs of The Great War and its aftermath are nicely explained, whether Gertrude is their focus or not. I felt the novel came alive here as its three main protagonists, Gertrude, Lawrence and Arabian King Faisal, danced around each other trying to resolve the bloody mess of broken promises. However, a lot of the novel has already happened by this point and I was disappointed by the superficial treatment of Gertrude's early years in the deserts that so captured her heart. We only visit one archaeological dig - where she meets Lawrence - and I never really felt as though I was being shown this world as she saw it.Other irritations: several chapters end in cliffhangers which are then ignored, the following chapter beginning much further on in time. For example, at one point Gertrude is captured and imprisoned by a particularly nasty Arab. How will she escape? I still don't know, even having finished the whole book, because the next chapter begins weeks later. The episode is alluded to, but never fully explained. Gold also has a habit of beginning new episodes with several lines only identifying the lead character as 'he' or 'she'. 'She' is generally Gertrude, but there are several male characters from whom to choose and I often got confused who I was reading about.Having had high hopes for this novel which, with its historical and feminist themes, should have been exactly my sort of thing, I was ultimately disappointed. I did learn about Great War politics, but don't feel as though I really got to know Gertrude Bell.

  • Lynn
    2019-05-06 22:56

    From the Acknowledgements: "Gertrude Bell is just one of countless numbers of women throughout the ages whose names and deeds have been expunged from history. I often pose a question to an audience, 'Name just a couple of women who lived before the 19th Century and who were famous in their own right for their own deeds, and not because they were the family or consorts of famous men.' The silence in almost all audiences is something of a revelation.""Who is Gertrude Bell?" I asked myself as I picked up this book. The advanced materials mentioned Arabia and T. E. Lawrence. The further I delved into this most interesting and informative tale, the more I wondered why I had never heard of her until now. She was one remarkable woman!At the turn of the 20th Century, she began to immerse herself in Arabian thought, culture, politics and geography, her goal being to help them shed their Ottoman Turk overseers and unify. T. E. Lawrence and WWI accelerated this movement, and Gertrude was invited to participate in the post-war discussions, which created the country that we know today as Iraq. The many Arabic factions, kings, emirs and warlords made any steps toward unity very difficult. "Unity has never been part of the Arab mind. At heart, you're a nation of individuals, of nomads, of wanderers. You and your people have never developed beyond the level of the tribe.""Miss Bell has crafted the mold for women for all time to come. She has broken barriers once thought impassable. She has crossed borders once thought impenetrable. She has set a standard to which other women, and indeed men, must now aspire.""There are many commanders, but only one Gertrude Bell. Your knowledge of our people, our history, and our language sets you apart from all others. Your commanders come and speak with us as though we are children. Yet people in my country and in Syria and Palestine and the land of the Druze and in Mesopotamia still speak of Gertrude Bell as the Daughter of the Desert, as a woman who understands the way in which we think ad the needs we have, caught up in a world not of our making."Gertrude Bell was a linguist, explorer, archaeologist, diplomat. She had reached the highest position any woman had ever reached in the British civil service, she had published numerous books about her travels and archaeological discoveries, she had directed British policy in the Great War, she was fluent in six languages, had climbed unclimbable mountains in Switzerland, and a formerly-unconquered peak had been named after her, she had befriended and advised the most important men in England and the Middle East, she had been imprisoned by a tribal warlord, and now she is known as the woman who invented Iraq and the woman who is responsible for consolidating and preserving 4,000 years of history in the Baghdad Museum of Ancient Archaeology.Alan Gold has specialized in bringing back from obscurity those fabulous but forgotten women who changed the course of their societies.Thank you, Alan Gold.I read this E-ARC courtesy of Edelweiss.

  • Mandy
    2019-05-18 22:10

    This is a well-intentioned and meticulously researched historical novel based on the life of Gertrude Bell, a remarkable woman by any standards and this could have been a wonderful re-creation of her amazing life. Unfortunately the author ignored that cardinal rule of all historical fiction that the characters should remain true to their place and time. For all her unconventionality Gertrude Bell still lived at a time when sexual matters weren’t talked about openly and well-brought up women, however adventurous, were still bound by the codes of the time. As a result some of the episodes in the book are simply ridiculous. We are led to believe that Bell calmly lay under the desert stars with the man she fell for, unchaperoned, and made love. That she talked openly with T.E. Lawrence about his latent homosexuality – and this at a time when such matters were never alluded to in polite society and Gertrude was a product of polite society. It seems inconceivable that she would have gone to Prince Faisal’s bedroom unchaperoned and naked except for a “bathrobe” – this could have destroyed her reputation once and for all. There are just so many anachronisms in the book that a good editor should have weeded out. Is it really likely that Bell would have lain on her bed shouting “shit, shit, shit” in irritation? Call someone a “pompous arse”? And in any case she wouldn’t have had a bathrobe and purse, but a dressing gown and handbag. She was English. These may seem small quibbles but to me they show a lack of understanding and make me doubt a lot more of what I read. I must point out, however, that I was reading an uncorrected proof from Netgalley so some of my quibbles may be ironed out in the final version. Perhaps an editor stepped in and did what editors are supposed to do. The writing itself leaves much to be desired, with repetitions galore (people “ply their trade” twice in one paragraph.) One minute Lawrence has “piercing blue eyes” and then a little later “flamboyant blue eyes”. We get the point. Clichés such as this abound. Arab women are “dusky”, Arab men are “lean and tall and magnificent in their jet black beards, their faces burnished like bronze by the desert sun” and they walk “majestically with leonine steps”. Elinor Glyn would have been proud. All this detracts from what could have been a serious examination of Gertrude Bell and her exploits. She was such an important and influential figure in the Middle East and deserves better than to be turned into a heroine of a cheap women’s magazine type story.To be fair, however, the book does present the facts of this troubled and volatile period fairly well. The politics take some sorting out and Gold seems to be both informed and knowledgeable. I’m not knowledgeable enough myself to know how accurate his accounts are, but I suspect he is historically correct. If only his dialogue and characterisation were better this would have been a much more readable novel. I suggest that if you really want to know more about this intrepid and ground-breaking woman you turn to a good biography.

  • Karen
    2019-05-13 03:08

    3.5 / Novel based on the life of Gertrude Bell: world traveller, political officer, administrator, spy and archaeologist. She became an expert on the Middle East and was highly influential in establishing Iraq and Jordan after WWI. Good friends with Lawrence of Arabia and King Faisal, highly respected by Winston Churchill. From her 30 years of "digging in the sand", she started the Iraqi Museum. I didn't even know this woman existed and what a woman she was in a time where women just didn't do the things she did. The beginning and ending of this book are good, the middle is dry, dry, dry. A movie has recently been made with Nicole Kidman playing Gertrude in "Queen of the Desert" with James Franco (Henry Cadogan) and Robert Pattinson as Lawrence of Arabia. Supposedly it was released in 2015. Checked Netflix & it's in the saved queue.

  • Saturday's Child
    2019-04-26 01:15

    A highly enjoyable read.

  • Bonnie
    2019-05-11 04:01

    Bell of the Desert is well worth reading although it isn't a page-turner. We've all heard of Lawrence of Arabia, even if we don't know about what he did. Gertrude Bell is a relative unknown even though she was instrumental in helping to establish the Arabian state in the Middle East following the first World War. Gertrude Bell was a scholar, a graduate of Oxford with a degree in modern history. She was fluent in several languages and had a strong interest in the MIddle East. She traveled extensively through the area and learned Arabic and Persian languages. Her understanding of the people of the Middle East enabled her to be of great use to the British during and following WWI. Gertrude Bell was a highly intelligent woman who involved herself in archaeology and politics. She developed close friendships with Arab leaders and advised the British military on Middle Eastern matters. Her greatest frustration was that men discounted her or ignored her, despite her great knowledge.

  • Fay
    2019-04-25 19:55

    I have decided that I love fictionalized history. I work with a lot of Iraqi families so it has been a country of interest for some time ... and Gertrude Bell was a real person, a woman before her time. Someone who was clever, independent, brave and willing to go against societal expectations. At a time when women 'came out' and then kept charming folk with small talk until they snared a husband, Gertrude went to university and studied the only subject available to women at the time - history. She then travelled through Europe and the middle east, learning Arabic and becoming very familiar with the customs and social norms. Add into the mix the First World War and the inimitable Lawrence of Arabia and you have a great story.... a little bit of a 'boy's own annual' feel sometimes but I admire her gumption and the description of cultural differences. The British were also amazing in their 'bloody mindedness' to do things the British way and look after their own interests

  • Carol
    2019-05-07 04:15

    This is a great book despite some typos and repetition. It is very long. That said, it is a tremendously interesting and readable story which made the history of the Middle East interesting to me. It brought this region alive and now I want to read more on this subject. There is much detail of the political intrigue, the forming of the League of Nations and other actions at the end of WW1, the negotiating between countries, the carving up of the Arab territories, and, finally, the emergence of Iraq and Syria as countries which united the many tribes of the desert. The problems of the first half of the 20th century persist today. Reading this book gave me an understanding of today's issues in the Middle East, and also why the European and American governments are so reviled. Colonialism was at times brutal.

  • Harith Alrashid
    2019-05-02 02:04

    الكتاب الثاني الذي اقرؤه عن الشخصية المثيرة للجدل غيرترود بيل بعد كتاب جرترود بيل ملكة الصحراء غي المتوجه وهذا رابط الكتاب هذا الكتاب عبارة عن سيرة غيرترود بيل بطريقة اشبه بالرواية المطولة الاسلوب جيد والسرد غير ممل ولكن هناك كثي من التفاصيل لا يوجد دليل عليها وبعضها يكاد يكون مستحيلا مثل لقاء غيرترود بيل مع عبدالرحمن الفيصل والد الملك عبدالعزيز في بوخارست رومانيا حيث يبدو هذا الادعاء مستحيلا وهناك تفاصيل اخرى تحتاج الى اثبات والمقصود ان هذا الكتاب لايعد مرجعا تاريخيا يحال اليه وانما يعتبر فرصة للتعرف على هذه الشخصية

  • Christina Cook
    2019-05-02 20:16

    StRts off really well, becomes slower and slower.

  • Joseph Meth
    2019-05-14 03:12

    This is the third book on Lawrence of Arabia I've read and probably my seventh about the period 1900-1920 so the book didn't have much new to offer for me .... with these exceptions: 1) this was the first book that mentioned Gertrude Bell and 2) the first that demonstrates how truly little has changed in the Middle East over the past 100 years except for the founding of Israel.The author attempts to shift the limelight of the victory and dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent creation of the today's Arab countries onto Gertrude and her mentoring of Lawrence. However, I found the second half of the book, the portions that begin with the Paris Peace Conference and the bartering and establishment of the Middle East kingdoms as the most enlightening.It may be that Gold was writing about the past through the prism of the current Middle East conflict but the echos of the past on today is striking. The most unusual aspect, however, was the speech (perhaps purely fiction) by one of the Arab sheiks about the cooperation with the Jewish settlers and the upcoming Israeli state he anticipated in helping the Arabs regain the momentum they'd hundreds of years earlier. If that had only be true and if it only could be true today.

  • Emily
    2019-04-27 03:06

    What a fascinating book about an interesting lady and bit of history! I felt the book was very heavy on dialog and politics and light on description and character development. But, I enjoyed the topics discussed. One of the best things about this book, I thought, was how well it explains the political situation in the Middle East - historically, obviously as this book takes place a century ago, and the applications to today's world. If I had to recommend a book to understand the culture and the many moving parts to the Middle East, this would be it, even though it is a novel. As for the character of Gertrude Bell, I'm not sure I knew her any better at the end of the book than I did at the beginning, though I knew more about what the real-life Gertrude Bell accomplished. I'd only read a short magazine article about her before this book. Also, I'm not sure I liked the character of Gertrude much. She's obviously very intelligent and weary of shallow London society. But she comes off as arrogant more often than she doesn't, unfortunately. Still, this was a very interesting book. I recommend it. (I received a free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

  • Gmc
    2019-05-02 00:02

    I really didn't like this book...The life of Gertrude Bell, she is a genius and graduates from Oxford in 2 years and is the first female to graduate from there and also the first to do it in 2 years. The daughter of a rich industrialist, she makes her bow to the Queen and begins the marriage mart round being a wealthy beauty makes her a magnet... then her views on the world drives them away. After several years of not landing a husband she is sent to her uncle and Ambassador in the Balkans. She falls in love with her uncles 3rd secretary, an man from a poor family with plans to be an Ambassador someday she writes to her father and permission to marry is denied. She goes home to talk to her father, while she's away her lover fall in an icy river catches pneumonia and dies. She's heart broken and starts traveling the world and the mid-east. While traveling she has many affairs some with married men. Even though this is an interesting story it was a very hard book to read.

  • Melissa
    2019-05-21 00:07

    3.5/5 I really enjoyed reading about Gertrude Bell and her life traveling around the Arabian peninsula. I'd never heard of her before, so I can't really attest to how factual the story is. While there are many great moments between Gertrude and the other supporting characters, for the most part I think the book could have benefited from some editing. It seemed as if a quarter of the book was just padding to make it longer and didn't contribute to the plot. There were often whole paragraphs that just felt unnecessary and in the end the wordiness just made the book feel slow when it really had the potential to be a fast paced adventure.

  • Koba Kay
    2019-05-07 21:49

    Gertrude is spinning in her grave.The manipulation of historical fact didn't justify this exercise of pure vanity. There was plenty of drama available that wasn't utilized. The book plodded along painfully, making it a labor I wouldn't inflict on an undergraduate interested in the fertile ground of Ms Bell's impressive experience. What was left unsaid was what hurt this book the most. The rest was simply a chore, an insult to Gertrude Bell and a complete misrepresentation of the era by an author who had an embarrassing ignorance of the history.

  • Julie Bye
    2019-04-28 03:00

    I'd actually give this three and a half stars. The life story of Gertrude Bell has such magnificent raw material. But the book gets bogged down in details. Although written as a novel it is meticulously researched and tends to read in places like an historical text book. If you love history, I highly recommend this book, however it doesn't really deliver the emotional connection you want from a novel. Still, I do love history and I'd gladly read more of Gold's work.

  • Kelly Callaghan
    2019-05-22 21:55

    I bought this book because I'd read a review praising it. Not sure why!!! I can't finish it. I am sure that the author has researched the life of this amazing woman. She carved out a very different life for herself in Victorian England by exploring what we now call the Middle East. However, the writing is dreadful. She meets Thomas Lawrence and believes he will change the world. We know him as Lawrence of Arabia. Sorry I can't recommend this.

  • Denise
    2019-05-09 03:52

    The description sounded really interesting. However, I was very disappointed in this book. The author would set the stage for a very interesting episode in Ms. Bell's life, but would then change the topic and never finish telling what happened. This book failed to deliver.

  • P M
    2019-05-06 04:09

    If this is a "meticulously researched novel" that "accurately opens history’s pages", it didn't look like it to me.Many dialogs and situations don't stick to the facts and don't even seem plausible. I regret to have wasted my time reading this book.

  • Carol Baker Dill
    2019-05-15 04:10

    How interesting to see that history repeated itself. The British Empire found itself in an expensive and unwanted war for land that did not own.

  • Janet
    2019-05-08 22:16

    didn't finish. Great subject badly written

  • Paula A. Parisi
    2019-05-21 21:04

    I almost always finish a book but the over use of the word "and" was intolerable. I can see how it made it to publication