Desert Queen

The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia

Publisher: Anchor

This “richly textured biography” (Chicago Tribune) inspired the mesmerizing documentary, Letters from Baghdad, now in theaters. 

Here is the story of Gertrude Bell, who explored, mapped, and excavated the Arab world throughout the early twentieth century. Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, she played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T. E. Lawrence's brawn. After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.
In this masterful biography, Janet Wallach shows us the woman behind these achievements–a woman whose passion and defiant independence were at odds with the confined and custom-bound England she left behind. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence, Gertrude Bell emerges at last in her own right as a vital player on the stage of modern history, and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure.


Of Great and Honored Stock
Great persons, like great empires, leave their mark on history. The greatest empire of all time, the one that stretched over a greater amount of ocean, covered a greater amount of land, contained a greater number of people than any before it, was the British Empire of...
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This Reading Group Guide—consisting of an introduction, discussion questions written by the author, suggestions for further reading, and author biography—is intended to enhance your group’s discussion of Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen, the remarkable biography of the woman who, because of...
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"A major figure in the creation of modern-day Iraq." –Los Angeles Times
"Desert Queen, as timely as today's headlines, plucks Gertrude Bell out of the shadow of Lawrence of Arabia." –The Boston Globe
"Wallach has done an outstanding job of bringing Gertrude Bell to life." –The Dallas Morning News
"A richly textured biography of a . . . woman who devoted her life to knowing the desert Arabs better, perhaps, than any other European of her day. . . . Wallach comfortably commands the tangled political and diplomatic history of the Middle East." –Chicago Tribune