02 October 2013

Book Review --- Lawrence in Arabia

Lawrence in Arabia
Scott Anderson
The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
August 2013

Lawrence of Arabia.  The name conjures a dashing figure that helped change the world, one that is strong, stoic, and full of courage to face challenges head on!  And yet... what is reality?  Would you be able to recognize the real Lawrence, Thomas Edward Lawrence, knowing that he was 5 foot 5 and weighed in at just 135 pounds?  Not quite the dashing figure that we dream of.  But, he still was a force to be reckoned with in the creation of the modern Middle East.

In this book, Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson helps us place not only Lawrence’s role in the creation of the modern Middle East, but other figures as well.  Working from years of intensive primary document research, Anderson weaves together the complex story of Lawrence, German scholar-spy Curt Prufer, Zionist Aaron Aaronsohn, and William Yale of Standard Oil.  These four men, waged wars, spied for their homelands, and attempted to do their best to steer the area to a different future...only to watch it fall apart at the hands of others (the British and French on one side, the German and Ottoman on the other).  Anderson does not even need to make a commentary on the mistakes made that helped create the troubles in the Middle East today, instead he only needs to present history in a way that we’ve long ignored and stumbled around.

Even though this is an extremely complex story, and one that would be easy to get lost in as it covers history and politics and so many other areas, Anderson creates an extremely readable and gripping story.  He deftly covers the War from multiple viewpoints of our four main “personas” and gives the reader a solid idea of how each action built to create a force that was beyond their control.

This is a great book for any fan of history or the Middle East.  I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Review copy provided by the publisher

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