Charlie Connelly’s book on the English Channel is different. It is funny, sweet-tempered and skips along like a skiff in a fresh breeze. Connelly is best known for Attention All Shipping, his 2005 book about the areas named on the shipping forecast. His approach here is similar. He tells stories of extraordinary people whose lives have touched this stretch of sea, weaving them together with anecdotes of his own.
But, in the main, Connelly prefers to keep it light. One gets the impression that he also prefers not to do any first-hand research. His stories come from other histories, and even when a living person is available to be interviewed (such as Sarah Thomas, the American cancer survivor who became the first person to swim the Channel four times without stopping last year, well in advance of this book going to press), Connelly does not deign to talk to them. It seems the most work he is prepared to do is to wander around Calais or Dieppe, perhaps sit at a café where someone famous once sat, and recount the words on plaques or statues he comes across.