The Waters of Babylon: A Novel of Lawrence After Arabia

David Stevens, Author Simon & Schuster $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-86210-1
""Life After Lawrence"" might serve as subtitle and descriptor for Stevens's poignantly written but sketchily conceived first novel, which reimagines the life of writer and adventurer T.E. Lawrence after the desert campaign for which he was immortalized. Stevens's speculative but reality-based tale begins when Lawrence takes the name T.E. Shaw and becomes an airman serving on an RAF ship in the Mediterranean, near the area where he was once famous. The plot remains rather static for the first half of the book as Stevens explores Shaw's homosexuality, the devastating brutality of his parents, that engendered in him an appetite for physical abuse, and the evolution of some of his more intriguing relationships with his military mates, particularly an airman named Slaney, to whom he is attracted. The pace picks up a bit in the second half when Shaw is transferred to Afghanistan, where the erstwhile airman becomes involved in political intrigue and is accused of fomenting a revolution. But Stevens gets to the heart of the matter when Shaw meets the love of his life, a lowly but handsome Arabian servant boy named Dahoum, with whom he has a passionate affair. Several extended passages portray Shaw's relationships with other noteworthy figures of the period, focusing largely on his effect on George Bernard Shaw's long-suffering wife, Charlotte. Though italicized inner monologues attributed to Lawrence tend to the maudlin, Stevens manages to capture and illuminate the conflicted hero's inner life. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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