LAWRENCE IN ARABIA
By Scott Anderson (Doubleday, 577 pages, $28.95)
In this well-researched, sweeping account of the life and times of T.E. Lawrence, author Scott Anderson offers a fresh and compelling look at the making of the modern Middle East.
Lawrence was an archaeologist turned British officer who organized and fought alongside horse-riding tribesmen in the Arab Revolt during World War I, ushering in the end of the Ottoman Empire and establishing the modern national boundaries of the Middle East.
This is not a book solely about heroism and adventure, although Lawrence of Arabia’s exploits are recounted in a gripping narrative that makes this nearly 600-page account hard to put down.
The book’s broader achievement is that it reveals the incompetence and deceit of Lawrence’s British superiors in shaping the postwar Middle East. It also offers a revealing account of other British agents and those from the United States and Germany in the remarkable events of the period.
By Jonathan Holt (Harper, 440 pages, $25.99)
What if law officials were more interested in closing cases than solving them? What if a religion resorted to violence to punish heretics? What if an organization dedicated to peace actually fomented war? Been done, you say? Well, what if a newbie police officer, an army brat and a computer wizard combined forces to stop them all?
The beguiling setting for Jonathan Holt’s debut is Venice, where squalor and the sublime coexist, and its virtual online counterpart, Carnivia. In this first installment of a planned trilogy, Holt carefully unveils local and global wrongdoing with ever-deepening characters and a compelling look at high-profile issues: the role of rape in warfare, the Catholic church’s stance against women priests, the right to privacy/transparency in computer networking/government documents.
At times unwieldy, “The Abomination” tries much and succeeds at most.