The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw
Published by Constable
3rd April 2014
In early 2009 a strange sort of business plan landed on the desk of a pinstriped bank manager. It had pictures of rats and moles in rowing boats and archaic quotes about Cleopatra's barge. It asked for a £30,000 loan to buy a black-and-cream narrowboat and a small hoard of books. The manager said no. Nevertheless The Book Barge opened six months later and enjoyed the happy patronage of local readers, a growing number of eccentrics and the odd moorhen
Business wasn't always easy, so one May morning owner Sarah Henshaw set off for six months chugging the length and breadth of the country. Books were bartered for food, accommodation, bathroom facilities and cake. During the journey, the barge suffered a flooded engine, went out to sea, got banned from Bristol and, on several occasions, floated away altogether. This account follows the ebbs and flows of Sarah's journey as she sought to make her vision of a floating bookshop a reality.
I initially heard about this book via another blogger Miss Beatrix, and my interest was immediately grabbed. I needed a copy of this book, which unfortunately appeared, via the publishers, to have gone out of print! However, patience is a virtue and by the end of last year, I had not one, but two copies of The Bookshop That Floated Away in my hands.
I guess we all have dreams that never come to fruition, and if you asked us book loving types what our dreams involve, it may equate to selling books for a living, working in publishing, or being an author. Sarah Henshaw fancied the first option, but not in the conventional sense of bookselling, by renting a shop to do it from. Oh no, she decided to spend her parent's money on buying a barge, and turning it into a bookshop! In a industry that has seen bookshops close more frequently than they are opened, it was certainly a risky venture, and Sarah documents this in her book. Split into three parts (with the middle part being about the boat's (Joseph) history - sorry Sarah I skipped this bit because I wanted to carry on with the current story) it tells of how Sarah decides to take her boat up and down the locks of England, with a dream of one day sailing along the Seine in Paris, trying to sell her books.
What actually happens isn't maybe quite what she had planned for, with issues in Bristol about being able to sell at all, and flooding problems, let alone the time she came back and found her boat in the middle of the sea, unmoored from it's hitch, but with determination and some bartering skills, Sarah manages to swap books for meals, drinks, and a bed for the night. She meets a whole host of characters along the way and her business survives.
You can still find Sarah running her bookshop along the banks of the river at Barton marina, Barton under Needwood. She has a website and Facebook page if you indeed fancy popping along for a browse of her books, and hopefully, for her, a purchase or two.
I'm lucky to have a copy of The Bookshop That Floated Away to give away to one reader of Miss Chapter's Reviews. Just leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page or over on Twitter The competition will close at midnight UK time on Friday 23rd January and you can enter as many times as you like.