Lawrence In Arabia (Scott Anderson) is an epic that is more readable than Seven Pillars of Wisdom; Gertrude Bell is more personal and gives a unique perspective of the experience of a powerful woman in the bizarre, dangerous, misogynous world of devout Arabs in the early twentieth century - not to mention the bizarre, dangerous, misogynous world of Edwardian England. But the question that is immediately posed is "Where has Gertrude been all these years?" Was she really a central figure in the key decisions of this decade in the Middle East -- decisions that we live and die with today. Anderson does not mention her even once in his wide-ranging, comprehensive book. Lawrence himself mentions her twice -- once in passing, and once only as "storied traveler".
I suspect that as much as we and Howell might wish her to be a transcendentally heroic figure, she was merely an incredibly (truly incredible) heroic figure in a time that needed her more than it could have her, or would have her. I cannot imagine, having read both books, not reading both, side by side. I don't believe the importance of Gertrude's story as much as I would like, but that is just fine, thank you.