This is such a lovely book. I really enjoyed reading it. Having read and enjoyed Val Poore’s previous three books about her life on the canals of Holland and Belgium living on board and restoring various barges, I was really looking forward to reading this latest book. Although it was hard not to read it straight away, I did manage to resist and save it to read on a French holiday.
This book, the fourth in the series, was about a trip in a canal boat to northern France made by Val and her partner Koos. Val and Koos each own a canal boat of their own, but this little boat, bought and restored by the both of them and named Hennie-ha was purchased with a view to using it on the canals of Belgium and France for a trip away, otherwise known in barge parlance as a ‘faring’. The Hennie-ha is the right size for negotiating the canals and locks of Belgium and France. Although the eventual restoration of the little boat was not without its trials for Val’s partner Koos, a Dutchman with a lifetime of canal barging experience and expert photographer, eventually she was ready for the trip.
Val writes of their experiences aboard the Hennie-ha with an almost journalistic ease and describes the events on board and along the waterways in such a way that made me feel as though I was there. I felt some of the heart-stopping moments, such as Val having to jump back on board the boat over a gap, despite her fears of doing this. The lock dramas that for me would be the stuff of nightmares – I just can’t imagine being in a lock that is filling with water and something goes wrong, even though the whole idea of living or travelling on a canal boat sounds very appealing.
The scenery, the sights and sounds and the people they meet along the way on their faring trip are beautifully described, as is the pure joy experienced by Val that comes across vividly on each page.
There are historical snippets along the way of each place they pass through and I for one would like this to be expanded upon in future books please!
I was really sorry when the book finished. Escapism at its purest form. Already looking forward to the next book from Val.
About the author (courtesy of Amazon)
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Val left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/all ages fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (a travelogue) is in progress and should be published by the end of February 2017, all being well. Then it’ll be back to writing some more fiction. Val writes under her full name Valerie Poore.