‘Lawrence’ Biography is a Triumph
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but “Lawrence In Arabia” by Scott Anderson is one hell of a ride.
Anderson tells the side-by-side stories of T.E. Lawrence, along with several contemporary young men in the Middle East at the ramp-up to World War I, and in the war itself. They include an American oil man, a Jewish agronomist trying to turn Palestine green, and a young German intelligence officer.
Lawrence himself isn’t portrayed as some strapping Hollywood action figure, but as an eccentric little academic who stumbles into greatness. He’s Indiana Jones, as written by Noel Coward and styled by Larry Gelbart’s “M*A*S*H.”
Their stories are nicely blended. The book reads like an international thriller — which, of course, it is — but not like a dry, academic tome.
Subtitled, “War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” Anderson’s book is that rare example of escapist lit that ain’t escapist at all … it just reads that way.