"Battersea Reach, ladies and gentlemen. On your right, the artistic colony. Folks live on those boats like they do on the Seine, it's the artist's life they're leading there. Yes, there's people living on those boats." (p. 16)
Along the banks of the Thames, a small group of boats sit permanently anchored, serving as home not to artists, but to a ragtag group of residents who, for various reasons, have chosen to live on the river instead of on land. Their de facto leader is Richard, of the Lord Jim, by far the best-kept boat in the group. Grace is home to Nenna and her two daughters. Her husband has left them and the girls attend school only occasionally. One boat's owner allows stolen goods to be held on board. Another is trying to sell his boat, and hopes none of the other residents will tell prospective buyers about the leak. The characters were largely misfits, with humorous quirks. I was sympathetic towards Nenna, with her general awkwardness, her difficulty raising young daughters alone, and and her inability to rescue her marriage.
Unfortunately however, the central theme of the novel eluded me. There were also several loose ends and incongruities in the plot. It was a light and sometimes pleasant read, but I am positively baffled as to how it won the Booker Prize. Ah well, at least it was short. ( )