Best-selling author and screenwriter Alistair MacLean follows Lawrence as he breaks with tradition to live with Arabs and, using modern-day guerrilla tactics, helps them defeat the Turks and gain an independent state. In addition to the enthralling details of the campaign, MacLean provides valuable insight into the origins of the Middle East we know today.
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"An adventurous hagiography, you know, for kids!"
Finished reading this with my kids, but I probably enjoyed it the most. It was a fun introduction to Lawrence of Arabia written by Alstair MacLean in 1962. It focuses on the role that T.E. Lawrence played in the Arab Revolt during WWI. There is just enough wind-up with his early life, character, etc., and the history/geography of Arabia to insure the thrust of MacLean's small biography doesn't lose nonserious readers in a desert of Arab ignorance. But the book's real brilliance is in MacLean's depiction of the Capture of Aqaba, Battle of Tafileh and the Fall of Damascus. At the end, MacLean also ties the book off with a summary of the post-War years and some of the political results of T.E. Lawrence's work with Winston Churchill and the Colonial Office.
Again, as a biography this is probably not where I would start for T.E. Lawrence. This is more literary hagiography than biography. Alistar MacLean is better known for his war novels like 'The Guns of Navarone' and 'Where Eagles Dare'. MacLean's book came out the same year as Lawrence of Arabia the academy award winning movie (which suggests this was one of those books intended to surf the wave of interest generated by a popular film). But still, if you are going to read one biography to your kids designed around a legend, saint, or mythmaker ... you could certainly feed the kids worse.
"A Summary of T.E. Lawrence's life in the Desert"
The book is an entertaining, albeit sanitized history of the desert war. Written for a younger crowd, it does a great job at conveying the action and excitement of the time. An older, more worldly crowd, might note it avoids the very details that made the story so human; Lawrence's personal doubt's, depressions, and peculiarities are glossed over. So is Lawrence's infamous capture by the Turks, also whitewashed. I understand why, given this book is obviously for a younger crowd, although I wish it had advertised itself as such.
"A Fast Paced Look at the Man & His Exploits"
Alistair MacLean was a best selling writer of wartime advernture thrillers and that's basically what he's done here. It's a short action adventure filled with plenty of accurate historical details, with all the key events well dramatised. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I wanted to start with something quick and simple to get an outline of Lawrence and this turned out to be exactly that.
I'm currently listening to Lawrence's own book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and thankful for having started with this.
Even though Seven Pillars of Wisdom has some wonderful aspects, it lacks a narrative thread that's easy to follow, or much of the kind of character examination books normally rely on to keep readers interested . As such it's hard to keep up with what's happening without leaning on external references such as those provided here. I'm glad to have picked up a good deal of the story from this book before listening to Lawrence's own words.
Some of the other reviews of this title make a point of stressing that the book was written for kids. That may be so, but don't let that put you off. It's short, uncomplicated, omitting the politics and some gory details, but it's not dumbed down, or childish.
Alistair MacLean's books used to be very popular with young teenage boys when I was growing up, in part because he has a simple, direct writing style. This book is not so different in style from his adult books.
The reading is solid and professional.
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