Sandstorm and Stamboul Train

Where to start?

Sandstorm – Henry Shukman.

OK, an interesting book. Well written, and a recommended read. I did read it pretty fast which is always a good point.

(I’ll just read to chapter ten, or fifteen or twenty etc and I was still reading).

Reviews on the back compared him with Greene, Maugham and Conrad. I don’t think so.


Faded cynical world-weary journalist (yes, I know, of course it attracted me!) reads about the death of a former lover in a newspaper and we are taken to a flashback of how they met as a young keen reporter and a photographer in Africa.

He is hungry for fame and stories and the front page, she is already thinking about going home to France to ‘settle down’.

Needless to state they have mad passionate sex. As people always do in books.

They also get a brilliant scoop on a war in the desert. There is lots of description of the desert.

In trying to get out of the place they manage to nearly get themselves drowned off the coast of Africa, but naturally make their way through huge waves of surf.

He goes back to London, she goes back to France, and they both pick up with their previous partners.

Her life works out ok, well, apart from dying from bone cancer at 53, his doesn’t.

He goes back to Africa for a news story and and is filmed driving off after a hit and run which ruins his career. Whereupon he ends up in New York getting nowhere fast. He reads about his former lover’s death in The Times and decides to go back to the desert.

It was a good read but for me, didn’t evoke the same imagery that Maugham and Greene do. And the plot was super fantastic. Life isn’t like that.

Stamboul Train – Graham Greene

Speaking of Greene, one of my book reading problems of late has been down to Mr G. Stamboul Train in fact.

It took me months to read it. I don’t know if it was because I scanned it quickly at one point to see how it was turning out or whether it was because it just had a huge aura of depression settled above it. And I love Graham Greene. Normally.

It was like Brighton boring Rock.

Chorus girl goes out to Istanbul hoping to make good, meets rich Jewboy on train and dreams of happy ever after.

Political activitist who had escaped from Yugoslavia goes back to Belgrade to start a revolution which happens before he gets there, fails, and he decides to stand trial and condemns himself to death.

Meanwhile, gin-swilling lesbian journo flits around the place chasing stories.

I mean, how gloomy can you get?

Orient Express train atmosphere: zilch.

Plot: complicated, too many strands.

Characters: good, credible, sadly realistic.

A recommended read? Of course if you want to depress yourself. Make sure you have a bottle of gin on hand to get through it.


22 comments on “Sandstorm and Stamboul Train

  1. After your great review might have to check them out. i am more a Terry Brooks,/ Adams but am open to what I read…;) It will have to be Cidre. not gin though.


    • I’m pretty open too, I tend to be more picky about my library books where I have choice, but I accept freebies from my neighours which includes lots of stuff I would never choose. These were both worth a read, just not on my fave list.

      I only mentioned the gin because of the character in Stamboul Train. Cider would be my preference too, Old Rosie.


  2. Sometimes I like a gloomy read.. real life can be gloomy. I’ll look into this book (without the gin :-)


    • Stamboul Train was the gloomier of the two.

      Dashing around in the desert like Lawrence of Arabia was the more unrealistic, although if you look at it from a thermatic point of view, ie opportunities, live, love, loss etc then it stands up well.


    • How imaginative! And you haven’t even read the book. But yes, it would work really well. Algeria in the 70s and later in the 90s, Tuareg nomads appearing out of nowhere, and the start of the novel in Manhattan. Excellent. I’ll write to Mr S and suggest it and we can share the royalties.


  3. I’m always hoping to pick up good book ideas from O.P’s reads, and Sandstorm will get a place on my list. I probably skip the “lots of description of the desert”, and more than likely skip Stamboul Train, although I quite like the idea of the gin, Bombay Sapphire of course with good sparkling & fresh lime in a tall glass… which really lends itself to a whole different genre, something you’d pick up at an airport book store.


    • I don’t recommend books lightly as a ‘good read’. I do think the unputdown factor is a clear indicator though, and there is a difference between not putting down a popular crim/trash novel and not putting down a well-written book – this was the latter.

      The desert stuff came when they were walking in it all day, I felt exhausted by the time we all reached the destination :D In fact, I’m not sure whether the character was more in love with the woman or the desert.

      My gin of choice would be Larios, which I doubt you get over there. It’s a Spanish one, cheaper than the more popular brands and far better IMO. Depending on what sites you read it is the most popular in continental Europe, third biggest seller worldwide (doubt that as it isn’t available in the US), and Spain has the highest consumption of gin in the world! I could make a blog post out of that if I had a bottle in the house to photo, trouble is I don’t.


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