Bookish Newsweek…

3rd edition of the bookish “newspaper”

Click on the book titles for the full reviews.


Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and José continue to dominate the headlines as they cause devastation across the Caribbean and parts of the USA.

Days of Fire by Peter Baker

Concentrating on the relationship between President George W Bush and Dick Cheney, the book is an extremely thorough and detailed account of the workings of the White House during a presidency hit by catastrophe and disaster – from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the economic meltdown. While not whitewashing some of the more dubious decisions of the Presidency, the author takes a somewhat sympathetic approach to his subjects and as such the book is a good reminder of how we ask people to perform impossible jobs and then criticise them for mistakes or failures. Bush and Cheney made some serious mistakes, not lightly forgotten or forgiven, but this book gives a revealing picture of the almost intolerable pressures they had to deal with, and of the toll it took of them.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The unnamed narrator marries Maxim de Winter, a widower who lost his first wife Rebecca in what appears to have been a tragic drowning accident. But somehow Rebecca still seems to inhabit the great house of Manderley, infusing every room with the strength of her personality. Beautiful and vibrant, no-one who knew Rebecca remained untouched – it seems to the second Mrs de Winter that everyone adored her, some to the point of obsession. Gradually Mrs de W2 begins to think that Maxim made a mistake in marrying her – that he’s still in love with Rebecca. And then one day, a huge storm at sea leads to the discovery of Rebecca’s lost boat, and suddenly everything Mrs de W2 thinks she knows about Rebecca and her husband is turned on its head…

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Back in the 12th century, there are slits between the world of the jinn and our own world, and the jinn sometimes interfere with humanity, often wickedly. Centuries later, not far in the future from our own time, the slits between the jinn world and our own have been lost for many years. But after a great storm lashes the world, strange things begin to happen – people finding their feet no longer touch the ground, people being struck by lightning and finding themselves afterwards possessed of strange powers, people suffering from what are either terrifying hallucinations or perhaps even more terrifying reality. It appears the jinn are back…

Djinn by jwilsonillustration via

In this book, Rushdie has created a brilliant satire of politics, totalitarianism, world financial institutions and so on and, on a more intimate level, of love, sex, and human relationships in general.

…for a period of time variously described by different witnesses as “a few seconds” and “several minutes”, the clothes worn by every man in the square disappeared, leaving them shockingly naked, while the contents of their pockets – cellphones, pens, keys, credit cards, currency, condoms, sexual insecurities, inflatable egos, women’s underwear, guns, knives, the phone numbers of unhappily married women, hip flasks, masks, cologne, photographs of angry daughters, photographs of sullen teenage boys, breath-freshening strips, plastic baggies containing white powder, spliffs, lies, harmonicas, spectacles, bullets and broken, forgotten hopes – tumbled down to the ground.

(Scene from John Huston’s wonderful Key Largo, where the old man (Lionel Barrymore) describes the hurricane of 1935 to a somewhat less than heroic Edward G Robinson…)

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This week the Queen opened the new road bridge over the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, the Queensferry Crossing.

Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall

Humber Boy B is an eighteen-year-old, now called Ben. Eight years earlier he and his older brother were convicted of killing another ten-year-old boy by throwing him off the Humber Bridge. Now Ben has been released and must learn to live in a world that he has never known except as a child. But the mother of the victim, Noah, is horrified that he has been released and has set up a Facebook page pleading with the public for help in finding him. She says she’s not looking for revenge – she just wants to ask him the one question that was never answered – why did they kill her son?

Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton

Lacey Flint’s third outing shows Bolton at her best – inventive plotting, great characterisation, plenty of humour, much of it black, and a sense of tension that builds throughout to a thrillingly dramatic climax. The book starts with the discovery of the body of twins under Tower Bridge, the most recent victims of a serial killer who steals young boys and cuts their throats. The MIT squad, still led by Dana Tulloch, is getting nowhere fast – these murders don’t fall into the normal pattern as there’s no sign of a sexual angle. Dana and the squad are already feeling the pressure and it’s going to get worse…

Rabbie Burns’ Tam o’Shanter and his brave mare Maggie fleeing the witches…

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle—
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

* * * * * * *

Britain put aside its political differences for 10 seconds to give vent to a communal “Aww…” as young Prince George set off for his first day at school. Then the anti-Royalists swiftly put their grumpy faces back on and pretended they hadn’t joined in…

(Mummy couldn’t take him because, in case you’ve been under a stone all week, Mummy’s pregnant again (hurrah!) and suffering from severe morning sickness (aww!)… )


A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Let’s hope he finds the school locker room as inspiring as the one in A Separate Peace

No locker room could have more pungent air than Devon’s; sweat predominated, but it was richly mingled with smells of paraffin and singed rubber, of soaked wool and liniment, and for those who could interpret it, of exhaustion, lost hope and triumph and bodies battling against each other. I thought it anything but a bad smell. It was pre-eminently the smell of the human body after it had been used to the limit, such a smell as has meaning and poignance for any athlete, just as it has for any lover.

Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse

…and that all the school speeches he has to listen to are as much fun as the one a drink-befuddled Gussie Fink-Nottle gave to the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School…

“Well, boys,” resumed Gussie, having shot his cuffs and smirked horribly, “this is the end of the summer term, and many of you, no doubt, are leaving the school. And I don’t blame you, because there’s a froust in here you could cut with a knife. You are going out into the great world. Soon many of you will be walking along Broadway. And what I want to impress upon you is that, however much you may suffer from adenoids, you must all use every effort to prevent yourselves becoming pessimists and talking rot like old Tom Travers. There in the second row. The fellow with a face rather like a walnut.”

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And the winner of the 2017 US Open Men’s Singles Championship is…

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


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38 thoughts on “Bookish Newsweek…

    • Ah, with Rafa a picture paints a thousand words… *sighs dreamily*

      The storm that brought Rebecca’s boat back to the surface – a stretch I admit, but I was short on actual hurricanes… 😉

  1. Ah, those innocent days when we thought George W was the worst possible President of the US…
    I see Rushdie has a new book out, although it got a horrible review in Private Eye. Mind you, I’m yet to read a positive book review in Private Eye, so perhaps I shouldn’t take too much notice.
    Little George did look so sweet in his little uniform! I’m not usually swayed by such nonsense but, really, the cheeky little face on him is irresistible!
    Yay, Rafa! Someone needs to write a book about him 🙂

    • Haha – I know! I feel quite nostalgic for him now – he seems cuddlier with each new horror…

      I’m reading his new one right now – only the first couple of chapters so far, so too early to say. Ooh, are Private Eye meanies about books? Maybe I should apply for a job… 😉

      Yeah, it’s a pity he’s destined to grow up to be another Royal though, isn’t it? Seems so unfair – bet he’d rather be a fireman.

      Rafa’s biceps are book enough for me… I could read them for hours… *swoons*

      • Private Eye are pretty harsh about every book I’ve seen them review, your legendary one star reviews would be perfect! But I don’t think they are being entirely fair, or their reviewer just doesn’t like books much. How can everything be not very good?
        I hope George grows up naughty like Harry, but even more so. Then becomes a scaffolder 😊
        Hurrah for Rafa and his marvellous biceps! And his forearms. And thighs. And… well, everything really!

  2. How did I know Rafa would make his way into this post, FictionFan? 😉 – I do love this feature. It’s creative and interesting. And I agree: whatever we may think of one or another political leader, they are tasked with an awful lot – plenty more than I could do.

    • Haha! He’d have got on even if he hadn’t won… but I’m glad he did! 😉 Thank you – I’m glad you enjoy it! Yes, that’s the main reason I enjoy political bios and autobios – I always tend to end up thinking better of the person than I did at the time, once it’s possible to think more calmly about why they did what they did in the midst of the chaos. Of course, there are always some exceptions… 😉

  3. Well, I must be living under a stone… I didn’t know she was pregnant again! You have to admire her for persevering through all that morning sickness. Morning sickness is the reason I stopped after three. Blah.
    Rafa winning is good, right?

    • Yes, she had to announce it last week ‘cos she had to cancel some engagements. She really seems to have a bad time for the first few months (but I suppose having a massive staff of servants and her own private doctor probably helps… you should have tried that. 😉 )

      Ah, my Rafa! So lovely to see him win! *swoons*

    • Thank you! 😀 Yep, poor woman seems to suffer badly in the early months though, so good on her for being willing to go through it all again.

      I loved that Rushdie book! So intelligent but so much fun! I’m hoping his new one is just as good since I’ve just started it…

  4. hahah are you a royalist FF? That pic of Prince George is adorable…

    The Salman Rushdie book is interesting, I wish I liked his writing more but I find the majority of it is all too over my head. Have you got his new one yet? A few people have been lukewarm on it…

    • Haha – not really. I’m kinda in the middle – don’t care much about them, but they’re better than risking a UK version of President Trump! The younger ones seem like quite a nice bunch though…

      I had struggled with Rushdie too and had never made it through one of his books, but I loved this one. It was brilliantly clever but with so much humour – something I’d never really associated with him before somehow. I’ve just started the new one, but too early to have formed any opinion yet…

  5. Another brilliant news week FF, I am designating you as the place to go-to in order to feel better about it all – hurricanes to a gorgeous William going to school and melting the hardest of hearts. Love your choices for the hurricane book and I for one was very surprised to see Rafa 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed it! 😀 Haha – I do tend to shuffle quickly past most of the misery stories… I’m sure real news editors could learn from that. 😉 Rafa was bound to appear, win or lose, but so far I can’t quite see how to get my Darcy in… he hasn’t done anything newsworthy for centuries…

    • Ha – yes, the worried picture is the one I kept finding when I was looking for one – poor little chap! But this one is cuter. The Rafa pic is fab – I feel in my bones you may see it again… often… 😉

  6. Aw, I just *knew* you had to find a place for Rafa — and what a perfect spot for him it is! Well done, FF, compiling all the news, even the wee babe to come and the young prince’s first day at school. Brava!!

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