Friday, November 09, 2018
Book Review: Narrow Dog To Carcassonne by Terry Darlington
Like Estuary (reviewed earlier) I sort of enjoyed this book, but there were significant qualifications.
This book tells how the author, his wife Monica and dog Jim took their narrow boat Phyllis May down the English canal system from Stone to the Thames, across the Channel, through the French, Belgium and then French again canal systems all the way to Carcassonne.
It's described (as can be seen from the cover above) with words like "classic" and "comic" on the lines (I guess) of Three Men in a Boat or Bill Bryson's travel books, and some reviews are 5 star raves.
But I had a few issues. The word "comic" was one as I didn't really find it that funny. Recently I've been re-watching some old episodes of Cheers and each one has a proper laugh-out-loud moment:
Now Cheers is funny, this book less so. All too often it reverts to Daily Mail stereotypes of aren't the French odd, do lets remember the war, bash the EU and complain about not getting beer in pint glasses.
Then there's the writing style: this should be an easy read, yet too often it isn't, with prose like poetry (or poetry like prose), fantasies and at one point switching to the current tense.
Take one story about low flying fighter planes: the first description had them just 6 inches above the Rhone. This sounds like bar-room tall story, exaggeration, but then a second time round it changes to them and their boat being attacked by fighter-bombers - are the tall stories getting taller? - before a fuller description comes out, namely that they were fire-fighting planes picking up water.
Ok, so the author has to create tension but this just makes following what is going on harder.
My recommendation is if you're interested, maybe a canal boat owner, then try out the first couple of paragraphs or maybe even chapters and see how much you enjoy the viewpoint and writing style.