Last valentine’s day Bond bought me ‘The Gulf Wife’ by Jocelyn Henderson. I was thrilled because I love books, and had really wanted this one but hadn’t been able to find a copy. It took him a couple of trips to strike lucky which made it mean even more to me. It’s taken me a while to read because it is a beautiful hardback. As I mostly read at the beach, by the pool or in the bath there hasn’t been a lot of time to read a book that I don’t want to be ruined. However after a few nights going to bed early and spending time reading it i have now finished it!
This really is a lovely book and extremely well written, Jocelyn wrote the book with Leila Warren who writes a terrific introduction. Reading her story you get an insight into life in Britain during WW2 and you see the growth of the GCC and UAE. Jocelyn Henderson and her husband lived quite a life. They were posted to Jerusalem, Bahrain and Qatar before the move to Abu Dhabi. I knew shamefully little about these nations before reading this and found it really interesting to learn more, not just about the history but what life was like there. Reading this gives you a vivid picture of life in all these different countries and also shows how times have changed in each.
The main part of the book focusses on their life in Abu Dhabi. Jocelyn still lives in Abu Dhabi and is something of an institution. When her husband passed away she was granted permission to stay in Abu Dhabi, this is most unusual for the region. On the release of her book an afternoon tea was held at the British embassy, such is her sway in the region.
It is incredible to read about old Abu Dhabi, having recently visited the new Yas Mall which is gorgeous and very modern (there is even an IKEA next door) it is hard to imagine the city without paved roads!
I also found it fascinating to learn about how times have changed in the diplomatic corps. Having spent a lot of time in that world it’s interesting to see that some things have changed, while others stay resolutely the same. For instance Jocelyn said in an interview about being ‘representative’, “What they were really asking was, ‘is it OK to let her loose in public?’ Does she use her knife and fork properly? Does she know how to behave?’ And if the answer was negative, this spelt the death knell for her husband’s career.” This is still the case for diplomatic couples in my opinion!
As well as her life post marrying Edward, Jocelyn had a fascinating early life in the UK. She worked as the secretary to Sarah Churchill, the third child of Winston Churchill and also worked in the film industry! So this isn’t just a book about a ‘wife’ as such, more the story of a formidable woman.
To be honest from start to finish this in an enchanting book about a fascinating woman who lived life to the fullest. She has experienced a country growing and makes the story of that growth engaging.
If you can find a copy I urge you to buy it and read this!