War deceit, Imperial folly and the making of the modern Middle East.
509 pps in 18 chapters.
A Review by Colin J. Edwards
This is not a work to be taken lightly. Extending beyond the 509 pages of story, there are 32 pages of notes, 10 pages of bibliography and 25 pages of index. Scott Anderson took this book very seriously - and it shows.
Deceit is mentioned in the introduction, and I think Anderson is guilty of a little of it himself. 'Lawrence of Arabia' is an eye catcher on the bookstore shelves, and that was the plan of course, but the book is more about the Middle East, and the individuals that shaped it than it is about T. E. Lawrence or whoever he called himself at the time of his demise.
What is not concealed, is Anderson's antipathy for Lawrence. He critically compares the actual events at the time, with Lawrence's own recollections in his book 'Seven Pillars'. In some cases he is quite scathing. Personally I do not have a problem with this, as Lawrence connived with another country to the detriment of his own. And that is treason. I recall some years ago, the Book of National Biography discounted Lawrence's exploits as sheer fantasy. In any event I prefer this realistic appraisal of Lawrence to the exaggerated admiration found in Michael Korda's book, 'Hero'.
Today, is almost the perfect time to read 'Lawrence in Arabia' - not that any other time would not be appropriate to read this excellent work. But with all that is happening in the Middle East, it is enlightening to learn why the West is demonized.
When, having read this book you consider it in the light of Syria and Iraq today, you will have to ask yourself "Which side would T. E. Lawrence be on?"
Scott Anderson has written an estimable book, and I thoroughly recommend it.