BETA III BOOK CLUB – “Houseboat on the Seine”






I was introduced to this book at a semi-work related dinner while trying to introduce a Polish girl (Hello Marta) to custard. I don’t think she was impressed by the custard; however, on hearing about my project she suggested a book I might like to read. I really don’t know how a book about an American living on a houseboat in Paris made it to Poland but a copy was duly tracked down for me by Father Christmas.




So the long and short of it is that there is someone about with a houseboat plan who is possibly crazier than I am. William Wharton took a decrepit and once sunk wooden boat and jammed it on top of an old oil barge to create a home. He then wood panelled the inside and constructed an aviary for canaries hanging off the back. Absolutely certifiably nuts.

I should also mentioned that he did much of the work himself on a real shoestring. I am not sure – and can’t quite work out from the publishing date or any references in the text – when the book was set. I would guess perhaps in the early 1970s. This would explain the complete lack of any health and safety as the welded much of the hull standing in half a foot of oil with only a bucket of sand to douse any flames.


The story was quite heartening as Wharton got there in the end and seemed to produce something quite special. He is pretty engaging (albeit in a slightly gung ho American type way) and the book is peppered with a range of bon mots.


The only thing I couldn’t fathom was Wharton’s wife Rosemary. She left her to raise three children and work full time in a kindergarten while he fannied around with the boat and spend time and time again their “last 100 francs” on some bit of steel or wood to add to the boat. How she did not strangle him I don’t know.

Now, off to plan my Canary aviary to hang off the back of Beta III….



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