I have enjoyed watching the adventures of Tim and Shane Spall on BBC4 as they circumnavigated the British Isles in their barge The Princess Matilda but this book is not the book of the TV series one might expect. Shane’s book covers the first part of their journey from London to Cardiff in amusing and exciting detail including encounters with new and old friends as well as eccentric characters and vivid descriptions of the places they visit. It is a wonderfully entertaining travelogue whether you are interested in boats or not.
But the counterpoint to the adventure around the coast are the parts which show the reason why the Spalls set out on this voyage in the first place. These sections written by Shane when Tim was ill with leukaemia are very moving as she goes through all the extreme emotions of someone in the situation of dealing with a serious illness in the family and describing Tim’s battle with the disease. This is what makes the book so powerful as it is clear why a couple who have come through such an awful experience would want to embark on such a fantastic adventure.
The other wonderful thing about the book is that it gives a far better insight into Tim and Shane’s personalities, particularly seeing Tim through Shane’s eyes. The other main character is of course The Princess Matilda herself who has a personality all of her own as she ploughs indefatigably through rough waves with skipper Tim at the helm.
A funny, moving and inspiring book.