The Young T. E. Lawrence
By Anthony Sattin
2015, W. W. Norton & Company, 978-0-39324-266-9, $28.95 hb.
Reviewed by Piney Kesting on May 5, 2016
British journalist Anthony Sattin tells the lesser-known yet compelling story of “Lawrence of Arabia” in this book about the early years of the scholar who became a World War I legend. Lawrence’s love of medieval history and crusader castles led him in 1908, at age 20, to the Levant, igniting a passion for Arab culture. When he was 26, Lawrence wrote to his mother that he had spent so much time in the Middle East he would “have such difficulty in becoming English again.” Sattin cites Lawrence’s affinity with locals to help explain his character. “He is our brother, our friend, and leader,” said a young Arab who worked with Lawrence at an archeological dig at Carchemish in Syria, from 1911 to 1913. “He takes such an interest in us and cares for our welfare. We love him because he loves us.” By 1919 Lawrence was known worldwide for his involvement in the Arab revolt against the Turks. Questioned about that, he confessed to a purely personal motivation: “I liked a particular Arab very much and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present.” Sattin’s extensive use of letters and diaries, as well as accounts from Lawrence’s close friends, offers new insights into the man behind the legend.