Friday, 15 June 2018

Guest Post - Phyllis M. Newman on Tunisia - Bookish World Cup - Tunisia

Scarlet bougainvillea draping white plaster walls pop against a backdrop of blazing sun, cerulean skies, and turquoise waters. The beautiful city of Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, presents this striking image to visitors. Before the Islamic Spring, before Iraq, Iran, and Syria exploded in our politically volatile world, Tunisa was a haven of liberality, a small triangle of peace and prosperity situated between Libya and Algeria. Even then, we prayed, as westerners, that our plane not stray off-course.

Although my daughter and I had been advised to wear long dresses and to cover our arms, young women native to Tunisia walked the busy avenues decked out in the latest fashions, even halter tops and short shorts. At the time, Tunisia was quite progressive, especially as compared to other Islamic countries. The storefronts and sidewalk cafes mirrored those of any other city in Europe or America.

The contrast of old and new was startling in every Tunisian city we visited, among them Tunis and Kelibia. Ancient Roman ruins cropped up among contemporary buildings in bustling, modern towns, and older women draped their bodies in dark, flowing robes while colorfully, and often scantily, clad youngsters filed past them. The maze of winding passages in the ancient bazaars offered the latest in electronics and watches along with spices and grains that have been staples for centuries.

The most exotic spot we visited was one of the islands of Kerkennah, purported to be the Island of Circe of Odyssey fame. It’s warm shallow waters were clear as a teardrop, and we were able to walk for what seemed like miles before the water rose to our kneecaps. Unfortunately, the rather sparse seaweed caused my son and his friend to break out in huge hives within minutes. That was another thing about Tunisia. Even on this tiny, sparsely populated island, we found an up-to-date, gleaming pharmacy, where a chemist prescribed medications to the boys without a script from a physician. Just a good, common sense approach to what ailed them.

The island was lovely, peaceful and quiet. The blue, silvered mornings and golden twilights were punctuated with the sound of goats being herded past our tiny villa. We awakened to sounds of their tuneless bells and soft bleating. People walked everywhere and gas-powered vehicles were rare. I remember only one: a rusty pick-up truck, its bed filled to its brim with loaves of French bread, none of it packaged, but stacked like cord wood and battened down with twine.

About the food, I have to admit it was splendid. I have never seen more beautiful fruits and vegetables—ripe strawberries, succulent watermelon, figs, and apricots. All fresh produce was shipped from Sicily. Coming from the United States, where everything is sanitized, waxed, packaged, and processed so as to be almost unrecognizable (not to mention grown to promote shelf-life rather than taste), I found it a marvel. This was well before the demand for organic, whole foods in my part of the world.

Also, while on the island, we experienced a dramatic sand storm. We thought those dark, approaching clouds were rain showers until it was upon us, when it was too late to close up the house or save any of the food. We bathed in the Gulf of Sfax with local families who washed with a dark brown liquid, shampooing their hair until it looked like soapy mud. We slept on rugs on the roof of the villa while listening to a wedding celebration, to the joyous voices, laughter, and ululations of women, throughout the night.

Perhaps the highlight of our journey was a visit to the ruins of ancient Carthage, now a suburb of Tunis, and the excavations of Kerkouane, in the Cap Bon peninsula along the coast. Regarding the latter, what was left of the walls of the Punic city (about two feet high) revealed the homes of ordinary people. Every domicile appeared to include a stone bathtub that drained outside to the gutter that ran along the narrow passageways between households. Imbedded in a mosaic floor in front of a hearth, we found a little Tanit, the mother goddess, symbol of protection. We certainly felt she had showered us with good luck as we toured beautiful Tunisia.

History, Punic and Roman ruins, beautiful deserts, glorious food, and the lovely, welcoming people of Tunisia created memories we cherish still.  

Thank you so much Phyliss for this look at Tunisia. 

England, 1922. Times are hard. Anne Chatham is a clever, modest young woman with little money, no prospects for marriage, and a never-shared secret—she can see spirits.

Anne finds employment as a typist at Northfield house, the grand country manor of the Wellington family. Her employer, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Wellington, is kindly. His haughty wife is not. He has two handsome sons, the wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen.

Anne feels sure her prayers have been heard. Until the terrifying night she stumbles upon a tortured spirit roaming the dark halls of Northfield, a spirit that only she can see. In a search for answers, she finds herself drawn to Owen as they unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past—a beautiful young bride gone missing on her wedding day.

Then tragedy strikes again on the night of a glittering masquerade ball…


Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghostwatchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at, or Facebook 

Buy link for The Vanished Bride of Northfield House:

British buy link:

Purchase at, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble


  1. Very interesting thanks for opening our eyes!

  2. Thank you. It was the trip of a lifetime

  3. Rachel, thanks for the opportunity to do a guest post.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...