Having read LTC Rolt, Steve Haywood and Paul Gogarty on narrowboating - all of them with their own merits - I have to admit that Terry Darlington's offering is the only one that made me laugh out loud. Before picking up Carcassone I was a bit worried by the negative reviews which focused on the writing style but having leapt gazelle-like over the very first place where ordinarily there should have been quote marks I gambolled on without further worry. This isn't classic EngLit but it is innovative - or at least it appears to be in my view as I am not a student of literature. Try reading Joyce if you want to complain about style - and he made it into the pantheon of scribblers! Carcassone isn't difficult to get into if you permit yourself the same sense of humour that drove the writing. If you've got a funny bone you'll laugh. Maybe a little experience of the French accent delivering spoken English might help.
I must say that I really enjoyed this book and went on to read the whole series. I did not like them as much as the first Narrow Dog, but they hang together as a charming trilogy.
A lot of people have mixed opinions about the prose style and punctuation of the Narrow Dog books, so I would strongly recommend looking at the free Amazon samples before purchase. They won't give much of the book away, and it will give you a good idea of whether or not you will like the style before purchasing the book. You'll know right away whether or not it is readable for you. If it's not, I wouldn't bother - I find that the rhythm and movement of the prose is at least 30% of the charm for me. It's definitely to my taste but I can't speak for yours.
I am a female university researcher in the 18-25 age bracket. However, I would warmly recommend this book to a variety of people, as it will have an appeal to several demographics. It will appeal to people who are interested in poetry (modern and classical), humorous travel writing, British humor, British travel, long-term relationships, dogs, boating, and misadventures. I would give this book as a gift to older family members, particularly when I wish to explain some of the culture of English boating. I would not give it to friends unless I was reasonably sure that it would match up with their prose style tastes. Darlington's writing is like Marmite - you'll love it or hate it. Both reactions are legitimate, but it saddens me to think that some people will buy the book for its content only to be turned off by the prose. So check it out first, and if you're buying it as a gift, consider the recipient's own tastes.
As a further recommendation alignment I would suggest that readers who enjoy H.E. Bates, Dorothy Sayers and Bill Bryson would probably get the most out of this book.
I have now read all three books in the trilogy, and re-read them too. The journey carried me along during many an insomniac hour. Can't understand the negative reviews - as an English tutor, I can see the lack of punctuation might be annoying at first, but after the first few pages it goes un-noticed and what comes over is a train-of-thought style which is clever and, for me, works. The literary and musical allusions added depth and interest. I much prefer this characterful writing to some of the drivel churned out and marketed as "bestseller" material, when in fact it is so formulaeic and predictable. This book is ultra- relaxing, but keeps the brain ticking over as well. As for Terry, well, give me a grumpy, opinionated old fart anyday, rather than a politically correct shadow of a bloke.....he has inspired me to be more opinionated and grumpy and I feel the better for it!
I found this book very hard to maintain my interest. At times it was unclear as to where we were on the journey because the author kept referring back to things that happened before the trip started, also he kept putting in French, fine if you speak French.
Hilarious, moving and exciting. The author has a wicked eye for the small details that make you laugh - a dry observational sense of humour. A British Bill Bryson perhaps although personally I found him funnier. It is very well-written and reads like a really good novel rather than a travel book. In fact it is unlike anything I have read before - a unique voice. In addition, of course, the fact that the story is true is amazing - apparently these old guys and their dog actually drove their canal boat across the channel and down to the South of France!!!
I can't understand how anyone could not enjoy Darlington's little gem. Funny, moving at times, with moments of real human insight. I laughed to the end, at four in the morning. An inspiration to a newbie on a n/b and a treat for all Francophiles. The man and his adventurous gracious consort are welcome to come and drink my boat dry anytime....
Good grief, they must be mad! I'm totally with the dog on this one - narrow boats crossing the channel? Huge waves and even bigger ferries. I'll stick to the canals thanks, and absolutely wonderful read. Once you've read this one you'll read them all. I'm just about to start them for the third time.