Books by and about people who love books are like catnip to me. So Sarah Henshaw’s witty and poignant memoir about selling books on a barge sang out when I spotted it on my local library shelves. In 2009, Henshaw convinced a bank manager to loan her £30,000 to buy a black-and-cream narrowboat and enough books to fill it. After a stint selling her wares from a berth in Staffordshire, and growing ever more frustrated by the impossibility of making a living selling second-hand books, Henshaw set off on a journey around the canals of England and Wales. It was her intention to raise awareness of the difficulties facing booksellers in today’s market and a make-or-break attempt to decide on her future as one of them.
The resultant book is every bit as lovely and thought-provoking as you could hope for.
In amongst laugh-out-loud tales about her life and waterbourne adventures, Henshaw makes some pertinent points about the state of independent bookselling and the deep-rooted notion of the value of the books we acquire. Customers continued to buy her books but many also donated their own or bartered necessities and services for books from her shelves. She got a lot of cake this way – something I wouldn’t mind trying myself…
I was also tickled to spot a favourite book blogger, Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads, in her acknowledgements. Oh how I’d love to have been able to catch her as she went past my area. This is such an entertaining read and Henshaw’s personality shines through; she’s particularly comical in times of adversity and 6 months in a narrowboat offered up plenty of that.
And if you haven’t quite had your fill after finishing the book you can follow Henshaw’s log on her website.