Lawrence of Arabia: not just a WWI hero!

The mystique of the East and all things Arabian have always intrigued me. As a younger girl part of that for me was learning about Lawrence of Arabia, and I feel compelled to introduce him to those who may know little of him, his adventures and his actions during WWI.

Cover of The Golden WarriorSome of you may have seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia which was first shown in 1962. It was described as an epic adventure film amd won several Oscars. The image that comes to mind is of Lawrence in his eastern robes astride a camel in the shimmering desert – a rather romantic, exotic image. I was saddened when I learned that Lawrence, at the young age of 46, was killed riding a motorbike, like a perfectly ordinary bloke, not such a romantic image I have now! My young girl fantasy shattered.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Wales on 16th August 1888. As a young man he enjoyed travel. After a study trip to Syria he decided to become an archaeologist. He studied medieval castles in France and Syria and was to use his experiences to write his thesis (published in 1910 as Crusader Castles); in doing so he gained first-class honours in History. His knowledge of Arabic gained during his time in Syria became a useful tool when he returned to the Middle East to fight for the allies against the Turks in WWI.

Cover of Lawrence of ArabiaOn all accounts Lawrence could be described as a colourful character. He has been depicted by George Bernard Shaw as a “literary genius” and yet blasted by an Oxford historian as a “charlatan and fantasist”. He was also accused of being a spy, something that some may still believe today. One thing that cannot be disputed is he came out of the First World War as a hero for his efforts in the Middle East and is still seen as such. As a matter of interest, over twenty new books have been written about Lawrence between 2000 and 2010.

What do you know of him? Have you read about him? If you would like to know more about Lawrence, check our catalogue. We have several interesting books about him and also have the original soundtrack to the movie made about him. Further to this we have many eResources, such as Biography in ContextOxford Dictionary of National Biography, Britannica Library Adults, and History Reference Center, to name just a few for you to enjoy.

Cover of Young Lawrence Cover of Hero Cover of Seven Pillars of Wisdom Cover of Lawrence of Arabia

Samuel Vimes, you’re my hero!

CoverI’ve never been the sort of person to put up movie star posters in my room, or sigh over rock bands.  What I DO have, though is an enduring love of some book characters.  I know, it doesn’t get much more nerdy-librarian than that.  Even worse, my current infatuation (and an enduring one, I must confess) is for a cynical, middle-aged, angrily sober ex-alcoholic career policeman, who lives in a city that he loves to hate, in a world that doesn’t exist.

I first met His Grace, His Excellency, the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes (Blackboard Monitor) in 1989 in Guards! Guards! (a book that continues to be my favourite out of all Terry Pratchett’s novels).  At the time, he was a mere Captain of the City Watch, and I a recently-married student.  We have grown up together, Vimes and I, although I have not attained the heady heights of nobility and career stardom that he has.  Like millions of fans worldwide I am worried that Snuff, the latest title by Pratchett, may also be his last, and I am both pleased and saddened that of all the characters and stories he could have chosen, it’s Vimes who is the hero of Snuff.

Cover Pratchett’s books, on the surface, are all about farting dragons and innuendo-ridden witches, very tall dwarves and orangutan librarians, and as such are frequently dismissed as being for kids or people who like to dress up in old curtains and pretend they are wizards.

But they are also full of genuinely historical crunchy bits, retellings of classic tales, myth and legend, and characters that are so real you feel you already know them.  Their foibles are our foibles, their humanity just like ours (even when they are not, strictly speaking, human), and their dreams and aspirations as valid as ours.  All Sam Vimes wants to do at the end of the day is be the best copper he can be, keep his city and home safe for his wife and son, and make it home by 6pm each night so he can read Young Sam his favourite book, Where’s My Cow?

Snuff is a delight, a fabulously funny, heart-warming tale of mystery and murder on a policeman’s holiday, that is also about justice and slavery, nobility and prejudice and standing up for what you know to be right.  It is one of the very best books I have read recently, and has only cemented my ongoing love for Vimes, Duke of Ankh, Blackboard Monitor, and policeman extraordinaire.

Now make me feel better by confessing YOUR literary crushes …