Desert Queen – Janet Wallach

Gertrude Bell lived a life few women could lay a claim to in the turn of the last century.    Coming from a well off family in Britain, she was able to finance explorations into Arabia and Mesopotamia.    And with the knowledge and connections she gained in those trips, she became indispensable to the British government during and after WWI, when the dying Ottoman Empire threw all those territories into play.    She was responsible for the borders of the modern state of Iraq.

Lesson number one from this book: it was a nice to see a woman doing a really important job that you’d think only a man could have done in that period (she was actually an ally of Lawrence of Arabia).    Side lesson: most of the men she dealt with pretty much considered her a man, or at least something other than a normal woman, and she sacrificed any sort of normal family life, so I guess that also goes to show that you pretty much had to be a freak of nature to accomplish such a thing, but hey, it’s still nice to see a woman get ahead.

Lesson number two:  In the Middle East, it really does all come back to oil.   How completely depressing is that?    I’ve definitely got a better understanding of the history of what’s going on over there, and how it’s effecting things even today, and I can’t say I have any better a feeling of it ever being resolved.

Lesson number three: I need to read more non fiction.     This book was a complete slog (I read two other books while reading this one, because I needed breaks).    I don’t know if my tolerance for non fiction is down, or if it was this book.    I think I need to read some more to see if I can pinpoint that.


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