Tuesday 2 February 2016

The Bookshop that Floated Away

My first book for February is The Bookshop that Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw. It's my book five for Bev's Mount TBR 2016 challenge.

A first glance at the title of this book, The Bookshop that Floated Away, would encourage any self respecting book-lover to grab it immediately and cleave it to their bosom. Which is exactly what I did in Waterstones, Cardiff, in November... with a title like that I honestly didn't feel I could leave it on the shelf. The trouble is I don't get to go to a Waterstones very often, as the one in my town closed several years ago. When I do get to one I tend to turn into a crazy woman, wildly running around the shop plucking books off the shelf in a sort of maniacal frenzy. It's quite possible I need to get out more...

Anyway, the book. The story is that the author, Sarah Henshaw, puts herself seriously into debt by buying a narrowboat (named Joseph) to turn into a bookshop. It doesn't make much money permanently moored somewhere (oddly, I didn't catch where) so the author decides to take the boat on a trip around the canals of England and Wales, ostensibly to advertise the plight of independent bookshops which as we all know are, for one reason or another, struggling at the moment. No matter that her experience in the matter of canals and canal boats was nil, off she went determined to sell books, hold book group meetings, have author signings and so on.

All of these things were achieved to a greater or lesser extent and the book charts the author's experiences as she negotiates locks, meets people - both new to her and people who have read her blog or follow her on Twitter - and deals with various things that occur... quite often disasters of her own making. There is also a bit of talk about books which I quite enjoyed as I always like hearing about the books people love and why.

So why, oh why, did this book not really do it for me? It's quite hard to put my finger on to be honest. At no stage did I want to stop reading but I ended up giving it 'two' on Goodreads and even now I'm not sure if that's a bit unfair. The writing was fine and bits of it were interesting and even informative. I suppose I ran out of patience with the author. She was hugely in debt, family and friends clearly concerned for her and helping her out financially, and all the time it felt like she was just playing... at their expense. I feel that if you're going to do this kind of thing you should be able to fund yourself, and also be able to look after yourself as a responsible adult. To be honest, I felt at times like a young teenager had been let loose alone on the canals of England and Wales, when the author is actually in her late twenties. Worrying.

There was also a section of the book written from the narrowboat's point of view... Black Beauty style. And while this might sound quirky and fun, it just didn't work for me somehow. Although it served to illustrate that the author was aware that some of her beahviour was immature and she knew what people were thinking, I felt it to be a bit self-indulgent and yes... 'silly'.

If anyone really does want to read some good books about canal boating then I would highly recommend Terry Darlington's three books about the trips he and his wife and dog, Jim, took which are a total joy to read.

All in all, I think I need to be a bit more restrained next time I'm in Waterstones! Or go with a book list. Or something.



DesLily said...

another book done already? wow! my guess is that you aren't doing a puzzle at the moment lol

Cath said...

Kind of, Pat. I've been reading this one off and on for about 10 days, probably should've made it into January's books but wasn't quite finished so it's the first one for Feb. LOL Yep, halfway through a puzzle but the place where I do them is full of kitchen stuff at the moment as we're having a new kitchen put in. I can't stand sitting amongst all the clutter so the puzzle's been put away for a couple of weeks. Preferring reading at the moment anyway.

Val said...

Aren't "Almost" books frustrating...it almost worked, I almost loved it .... they have good qualities and they get finished, but they aren't really satisfactory ...all that promise.... but it doesn't work out...even when you really want it too..... Darn it!

I'm on a canal vein at the Moment "The Narrow search" by Andrew Garve, "The Rose Revived" by Katie Fforde and I've been watching Prunella Scales and Timothy Wests canal journeys...and been really enjoying them.

Hope your next pick is a goody!

BooksPlease said...

It's disappointing when a book you've been looking forward to read doesn't meet your expectations! I wasn't sure at first whether this book is a novel - it sounds like one and then I realised that it's non-fiction. It's a good title though.

I went to Barter Books yesterday and came home with six books (I took in 15 books, so I'm still in credit!), one of which was an impulse choice, a book by James Naughtie (his first novel). It looks good, so I'm hoping I'll like it. The other books were either specific titles I was looking for or by authors whose books I've liked before, so those should be OK.

Cath said...

Val: "Almost" books are incredibly frustrating. And it's odd because I never felt like giving up, which is usually what happens.

I'll look into those two canal boat books, I didn't know Katie Fforde had written a fictional one. Non-fictionwise I can definitely recommend Terry Darlington's books... they're delightful. There are three and I've read two, the French and the American one. I've just reserved Narrowboat Nomads by Steve Haywood, from the library, as I spotted it on Amazon and thought it sounded rather good.

We don't watch TW & PS's canal boat series, then we happened to see one a couple of weeks ago and wondered why we haven't been as it was lovely. Will look out for them in future.

Margaret: Ah sorry, I do tend to forget to say whether books are fiction or non-fiction. Yes, this is non-fiction.

I am very envious of your Barter Books. I've not read anything by James Naughtie though I have heard of him. Hope you like it. I'm enjoying Pompeii and a mountaineering book by Steve Backshall which is proving to be better than I thought it might be. Turns out he's a good writer!

Penny O'Neill said...

Ah, these almost books. I have had a few recently. I had to chuckle a bit, Cath, at your description of visiting a bookstore. I'm sometimes the same way. :) I do want to tell you that finally I am reading (via audio) The Eyre Affair. It had been resting on my TBR list now for several years, with your name next to it. It popped out in front of me in the library last week and I've been enjoying it since.

Judith said...

Don't restrain yourself from your "maniacal book frenzying" too much. It serves an important function in a reader's life. I would wax on, but guess what, I just received Mystery in White by Farjeon from ILL from my library today. I cannot wait! If it would keep me from work, I'd pray for a bad cold, but these days of being in business for myself, it would just mess me up. Maybe a terrible blizzard with no internet or electricity would do the trick! Yes, that's what I'll wish for.

Read on,
Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

Cath said...

Penny: Glad it's not just me in bookstores. LOL! Oh yes, the first Jasper Fforde book, a while since I've read any of those but I did enjoy that first book.

Judith: If we lived nearer some good bookshops I would have book buying frenzies on a more regular basis. LOL I hope you enjoy Mystery in White and all the snow therein, even if you don't get the blizzard you're hoping for...

Tarissa said...

Sigh. This is SUCH an attention-grabbing title. But it's probably not in my best interest to attempt reading it. I can't stand a disappointing book. :)

Cath said...

Tarissa: I know. I was a little dissappointed by it to be honest and gave it away.

I just friended you on Goodreads. :-)