Desert Queen
Desert Queen The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia By Wallach, Janet Book - 2005

Bell, born into a rich Victorian family, lost her mother to childbirth before she was three. In a way, she never recovered from that loss. Her father tried to make it up to her, and they were each other's best friends all her life. But she allowed him to rule her even when she was living in the Middle East, refusing to let her marry the man she chose. Bell never learned to get along with women, beginning with her stepmother. After being one of the first women to earn a degree at Oxford, but failing to snag a husband in the requisite 3 yrs, she went to stay with a diplomat uncle in the Middle East, and was hooked. Here she no longer needed a chaperone to go shopping, or travel into the desert and meet tribal leaders on the men's side of the tent. Freedom at last! During WW I her archaeological and map making skills earned her a place in the British spy corps, though not everyone could put up with her difficult personality. Lawrence, for instance, may have been her ally, but he didn't like her--but then he didn't like many women. After the war, she helped create the country of Iraq, for the good of Britain, and helped King Faisal settle in, though he'd rather have been king of Syria. Eventually, all her friends went home or died, and she became very lonely. She never married or had children, to her regret. Though Wallach doesn't say so directly, I'd guess Bell was clinically depressed much of her life. In 1926, 57 and ill, she took an overdose of sleeping pills, and died in her sleep. A fascinating look at a talented, flawed woman.

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