Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Bookshop That Floated Away


Sarah Henshaw is one of my favourite people. She runs a bookshop on a boat. The boat's name is Joseph (though it's officially known as The Book Barge), and she opened it in 2009. She even has a bookshop rabbit by the name Napoleon Bunnyparte. He's rather cute.

When Sarah first had the idea for turning a 60ft narrowboat into a bookshop, she approached banks asking for start-up loans. Trying to be original, she presented her business plan to them in the form of a book, complete with fake reviews and pictures from Wind in the Willows to show how wonderful the bookshop would be once it was up and running. She even included illustrations of Cleopatra’s barge (from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra):

The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumèd, that
The winds were lovesick with them. 

The Book Barge was going to be amazing, the business plan declared; it was going to be the stuff of legend. “Help us do this!” Sarah grinned.

The banks raised their eyebrows, sighed, and said no. 

So, with help from her family, The Book Barge opened anyway. You can normally find it in Lichfield but, in 2011, when business wasn't going well, Sarah decided to have A Great Adventure. She decided to up sticks for six months and take the boat over 1000 miles around the canals of the UK, selling books along the way. The Book Barge didn't have a kitchen, a bathroom, or a loo, so she bartered books for these things instead, advertising her whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook, asking for food, the use of a shower etc and giving people stories in return. 

A little over a year ago, Sarah decided to start writing about those mad six months of her life, battling with canal locks and boat robbers and slightly mad customers (you might have spied a few quotes from Sarah in the back of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). And today, her book The Bookshop That Floated Away is published by Constable & Robinson. I'm so happy that you can all rush out and buy it, and I really urge you to do so. The book is hilarious, and Sarah's a bit of a bookselling hero. 

Go on, go track a copy down. It's bloody marvellous. 




8 comments:

  1. One amazing person - looking forward to "meeting" her (and you) one day!

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  2. This really sounds like an adventure I want to read . about Many thanks for the heads up on it. I hope I can find it here in Canada
    Many thanks Jen
    Michael

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    1. If you can't find it in Canada, I'm sure Sarah would send you a copy :) If you want her email address, just give me a shout.

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  3. I think I will take you up on your kind offer, however, I would feel better if you would check with her first to make sure its ok for you to give it to me. I know, I know, but I just like when things are done proper and all. Many great thanks as always Jen
    Michael

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  4. hey all you can get it on Amazon and also buy the Kindle version so anywhere in the world is fine :)

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    1. This is true, but also against what the book stands for - The Book Barge fights against Amazon. :)

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  5. Just bought the book and am enthralled - see http://athomeatriverbend.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/good-bay-bookshop.html

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