Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's so special about boat books?

Here we are again, de-railing the rules about the blog challenge. Yes, well now, why do I like to blog about, I mean books... or perhaps it should be about boat books?

Actually, I've never blogged about boat books before - except my own of course, and then just recently the one my friend, Anne, is about to publish - the one with 'Cigar' in the title that I can't expand on yet as it would be giving too much away.

Phew! I do know how to go on, don't I? Still, maybe that should be today's subject - boat books! Which ones have I read and really enjoyed?

There's quite a collection out there and it's hard to choose, but I think my number one favourite so far has to have been…wait for the drum roll……

**1** For Better for Worse by Damian and Siobhan Horner (pic pinched from Amazon):

Why did I like it? Well it's the kind of thing that I would have done at their age. I sort of did, but I took off to Africa instead. These two crammed all their worldly belongs and two very small children into ten metres of classic cruiser and then, without any experience whatsoever, they travelled through France and out onto the Mediterranean finishing up in Valencia. When I say inexperienced, they arrived in Calais (with the help of a pilot) but didn't even know what a lock looked like to enter the canal systems of France. I just loved this book. It really describes life on the water in all weathers and it is refreshing and starkly honest at times. Both Damian and Siobhan write the book and what I found fascinating was that at the beginning, you can really tell the difference between the two - their styles are quite distinct - but by the end of the book, they have drawn together so much, you can barely tell whose writing is whose. A really lovely book about boats and travelling. It is a physical and emotional journey.

Other boat books I've enjoyed, and probably in this order too, are (I feel like I'm at the Boat Book Awards here):

2. Snail's Pace by Gabrielle Lorenz - I didn't even know it was still available but it seems to be a Kindle book now, so I'll have to get it. I read it as a hardback that's just not on offer any more except at a high price. I really enjoyed it too. It's about an English family who take an old Humber Keel barge across the North Sea, then travel through the Netherlands and France. There's just a bit too much about daily trivia with the children, but it was a great barge travelogue, and it was lovely travelling with them, which is what you feel you are doing when you read it.

2 (too). Small Boat Through Belgium (and Small Boat through France) by Roger Pilkington. These books are just precious even though they were written in the nineteen fifties. It was a time when only the intrepid went boating in Europe and Pilkington and his family were like a bunch of boy scouts in their extreme intrepidness. Lots of adventure and beautiful description, plenty of history and lovely pen and ink  illustrations. Old fashioned but really recommended. I used the Belgium one as a reference for The Skipper's Child.

3.The Watersteps series of books by Bill and Laurel Cooper. Watersteps Through France was probably my favourite, but then that's because I have this yearning to go and live on a barge in France. A great series of boating travelogues, also written by both Bill and Laurel with my only reservation being the focus on food and drink. I'm not personally a fan of French food and wine, so that aspect of their book was not quite so appealing for me.

4. Finally, there's Narrow dog to Carcassonne by Terry Darlington. This is probably the only true bestseller among my list here. It follows a journey from England to Carcassonne in a narrowboat. Terry and his wife claim to be pretty inexperienced, but I think this was more for entertainment value than anything as it seems they did a considerable amount of cruising in England before they left. It's an amusing book with plenty of drama and high excitement, and the 'narrow dog' is quite a character too. I liked it, but if you want to know what it's like to cruise through France, it's not the right book to read. If you want to know what goes on in Terry Darlington's rather eccentric mind, then it's a great piece of comedic writing!

So there. My boat book blog! I didn't know I was going to do this until I started, but now I've done it, I hope you find it interesting. It just proves what a liar I am doesn't it? No peasant would ever have read all these… (see previous post)


  1. "Doon the watter - or, if it is to be written as it is pronounced by Glaswegians, the Wa'er - is a laconic phrase devised during the eighteen-fifties to describe the pleasures of a sail on the Firth of Clyde." > From the author's introduction to 'Clyde Waters' by Maurice Lindsay, a first edition of which belongs to my husband. Reading your post, I stepped to the shelves to find it and found myself going doon the watter myself. 'Watery Ways' does that, too, and I wish you every success in your dream of going 'doon the watter' in France. Thank you for this!

  2. Thank you, Christina! I'm glad you enjoyed my boat book list. I shall now have to investigate Clyde Waters myself and go "doon the wa'er" in Scotland! I have edited my post just a little as I wrote it rather late last night. Ahem. I should have done the editing first, I know :-)

  3. A great idea Val blogging about a certain genre of books. I think books like this may be passed by if you weren't reall mad keen on the subject but probably we would be missing a good read.I really like the first one and I've not read your Watery Ways yet ,sorry but just so many books to read.I am reading your new one though so you can forgive me.

  4. Thank you, Anne! I am very grateful that you even think of reading my books since you have so many to read for your review page. But yes, I might do a few more of these 'top five' books as it's nice to know have a brief overview of books of a certain genre.

  5. Thank you Val, you have given me some lovely new reading material. Off to Amazon as we speak


Apologies for switching on comment moderation, but this is to make sure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops!

However, anonymous comments will not be published, so please would you sign your name. Even if you leave a nice, relevant comment, I won't publish it without a name.