Florence chronicles the birth of the modern Middle East by narrating the intersecting lives of two remarkable men. The portrait of T. E. Lawrence—a deeply British romantic who, despite his talent as a tactician, was unable to deliver on his promises to the Arab fighters he had led during the First World War—is persuasive if not particularly original. Florence is clearly much more taken with the less celebrated Aaron Aaronsohn, a brilliant agronomist instrumental to the survival of early Zionist settlements in Palestine. He became a spy for the British, at great risk to himself and his family. (His sister was tortured by Turkish officers who suspected her, correctly, of assisting in the espionage.) Florence skillfully blends geopolitical history and cloak-and-dagger tales.