Thursday, August 30, 2012

Desert Queen - Janet Wallach

Sub-title: The extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell: Advenurer, Advisor to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia.

After the Iraq wars of the past decade and Iran terror, learning the background of this part of the world provided context for the feelings of the people of this region toward the Western World.

The arrogance of England as a ruler of the world and the belief in mainfest destiny is well illustrated in the main character and her co-workers in the English diplomatic corps.

I enjoyed reading about a woman adventurer.  Her intellect was powerful: she spoke multiple languages (English, French, German, Arabic) and her love of working was evident. She was skillful at bringing people together to resolve their differences and worked  to create Arab nations out of warring tribes and people of different religions.  Its also revealed how the desire for oil was the catalyst for the western world to establish control in the region.  There is a lot of discussion of the details of her travels  and

Published: 1996  Read:  8/2012  Genre: History

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Emily - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Book 3 of the Kirov Trilogy

In this last volume the author covers the history of the build up to the Russian Revolution and World War I through the life of her heroine, Emily, the great-granddaughter of Fleur Hamilton.

Once again, the female characters are so naive as to be annoying.  After finishing the trilogy I wonder if the author was dabbling in writing a romance novel.  If so, I'm glad she decided to stop at three and get back to the Morland Dynasty series.

In this novel as in the earlier ones, the Russian given names of the characters are often made into nicknames that confuse and complicate keeping track of whose who.  I was reminded again that I struggle to read stories where I can't pronounce the characters names.  Next time I read a novel with unfamiliar names I'm going to find out how their names would sound and maybe that will help with remembering the characters.

I enjoyed reading about the early 1900's from the Russian perspective.  I've been watching Downton Abbey, a PBS series that covers the same time frame from the English point of view and the contrast really makes this history come alive for me.  I enjoy too, thinking about my ancestors and where they were in their lives at this time; how they dressed and lived, what news they heard, what were the attitudes and mores of the day.  All in all, a pleasant escape from the heat and the high tech world of today.

Published: 1992   Read: August 2012   Genre:  Historical fiction