Browne, M. (2012) Narrow Minds Accent Press ISBN 9781908086952
After a couple of months of rather ‘heavy’ reading it was a delight to pick up this second instalment of what might be called embellished memoire from Marie Browne. In this follow-up to her debut novel Narrow Margins she describes the lengths to which a desperate woman will go to restore her preferred lifestyle. Narrow Minds again chronicles her escape from constraints of ‘normal’ life and her return to the water on another semi-derelict narrow boat, the ex-hire boat Minerva.
In Narrow Margins she saved her family from financial ruin by moving her long-suffering husband Geoff, three children and elderly, gaseous dog on to a houseboat called Happy Go Lucky in search of a less stressful, cheaper, and alternative way of life. In Narrow Minds the family find themselves initially on land and inexorably sucked back into normality in an unloved house (despite its seductive creature comforts), with mounting bills, little work, no prospect of a ‘dream boat’ and the two remaining kids beginning to mutiny by seemingly preferring life on the bank.
Faced with ice skating cows, hostile mums staring across the playground and various outraged rodents, Browne feels she’s running out of time, and with their financial situation getting desperate there seems every chance that life will conspired against her and ensure that the family never get back afloat.
Happily, they do.. and this lively sequel details their return to a river mooring in Cambridgeshire.
If I have one slight criticism of the book, it’s that the waterways play only a peripheral, background role to the family’s unfolding dramas, as they cruise back from the Midlands to Cambridgeshire. That said, this remains a delightful, finish-in-a-couple-sittings easy read of a book. It will prompt the odd wry smile, make you reach for the kettle and a mug of tea, and take you away from the stagnation of February and back to dreams of boats and the ‘road ahead’.