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Publisher's Summary

A portrait in her own words of the female Lawrence of Arabia, the subject of the PBS documentary Letters from Baghdad, voiced by Tilda Swinton, and the upcoming major motion picture Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, and Robert Pattinson and directed by Werner Herzog. 

Gertrude Bell was leaning in 100 years before Sheryl Sandberg. One of the great woman adventurers of the 20th century, she turned her back on Victorian society to study at Oxford and travel the world, and became the chief architect of British policy in the Middle East after World War I. Mountaineer, archaeologist, Arabist, writer, poet, linguist, and spy, she dedicated her life to championing the Arab cause and was instrumental in drawing the borders that define today's Middle East. 

As she wrote in one of her letters, "It's a bore being a woman when you are in Arabia." Forthright and spirited, opinionated and playful, and deeply instructive about the Arab world, this volume brings together Bell's letters, military dispatches, diary entries, and travel writings to offer an intimate look at a woman who shaped nations. 

For more than 70 years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Listeners trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. 

©2015 Gertrude Bell (P)2015 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A fascinating read.... The story that emerges is thought-provoking.... Gertrude’s legacy makes easy parallels to the present, from world powers trying to determine the political shape of the Middle East to women’s struggles to be taken seriously by male colleagues. In A Woman in Arabia, she faces it all with humor, passion, and candor; even a century on, she’s a woman worth knowing." (NPR.org)

"[A] well-chosen selection from [the] letters and memoirs [of] one of the most remarkable figures of the late 19th and early 20th century.... Bell might be regarded as the much happier, female equivalent of T. E. Lawrence, who knew and admired her." (The Washington Post)

"I hope this collection of Bell’s prose, more than the upcoming film by Werner Herzog, stirs up controversy about her time as an archaeologist and spy and spearhead of post-WWI British policy in the Middle East, the effects of which can still be felt today." (Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire's "10 Must-Read Books for August")

What listeners say about A Woman in Arabia

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Raw historiography of a spectacular heroine

Driven very much by the narrative told straight out of her own letters, Miss Bell is allowed to tell her own story much like she might have done in the autobiography she never wrote. I found this is a very interesting approach, and it's certainly very well performed with one narrator-voice and another speaking the words of Gertrude herself.

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Queen of Baghdad

This is a wonderful collection of Gertrude Bell’s letters. She was a remarkable woman by any standard. The narration was done impeccably well. Bell’s descriptions of the desert and the East in general were captivating. Enjoyed every minute.

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Great role model

What a wonderful role model this woman was for anyone who has a passion that doesn't quite fit the mold. She was so accomplished and I didn't know anything about her.

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A Rivoting Piece of Work

I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Gertrude Bells life story. Highley recommended for anyone interested in the Middle East

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Magnificent

Vivid snapshot, through her own writings, of the architect of the modern Middle East. Gertrude Bell comet-vectored through her unparalleled life, formidably brilliant, steely brave, passionate for expanding the breadth of human accomplishment.

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Informative

A good telling if a fantastic life but I recommend Desert Queen above this for a more complete interpretation of her life.

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Queen of the desert

loved this women and all her wisdom ❤️ Her story is unbelievable and so strong a woman and unforgettable Queen

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  • Firas
  • 11-12-20

Beautiful book and listen

This is a part of the history that you wish politicians learn from and repeat with the goodwill

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  • Clare Chettle
  • 09-15-22

what an adventure!

This book was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Adventures Gertrude Bell went on throughout her life and respect she earned from all whom she met.

From dessert crossings, to mountain climbing (in a dress) to sitting for a portrait from J S Sargent.

to supporting a King assend his thrown. To building a museum for the communities of Bagdad. This book gave great insight into a wonderful and complex culture, I know little of due to today's political situation.

what a women.

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  • Jamie Barron
  • 09-16-21

Riveting compilation of the writings of a remarkable woman

This is a fantastic collection of the writings of the supremely interesting polymath, Gertrude Bell. Her intrepid and sagacious adventures in many fields, including mountaineering, archaeology, statecraft and languages, make for fascinating listening, and Georgina Howell has selected, edited and arranged these with a sympathetic intelligence, and in such a way that the listener builds up a real sense of what Bell was like - an exceptionally fascinating, talented, empathetic woman ahead of her time. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and the joint readers Sian Thomas (for Gertrude’s own voice) and Adjoa Andoh (editorial) made a terrific and engaging narrative team.
Whether you’re interested in any of the fields Bell was involved in, or simply want to hear about the story of an appealingly complex, pioneering woman, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more captivating listen than this.