The Borrowers Afloat is the third Borrower book, and was published in 1959. I am lucky enough to have an old, battered, much-loved first edition that used to belong to a library. I love that sort of book. They made books to last back then, and the pages have such a lovely thickness. And though this copy is worn and bears much evidence of use, it has such a welcoming feel to it. It loves being read.
In this story, the Clock family is once again in search of a new home. The gamekeeper’s cottage where they have been living with their relatives, the Hendrearys, is going to be closed up — and when there are no humans, there are no borrowings. This means famine. With the help of Spiller, the family escapes through the drain and comes out at a shallow part of the river. Many adventures follow, including a wild career down the river in a storm and a brush with the gypsy Mild-Eye from the previous book. (And yes, he still has their boot!)
Norton can take me right into the borrowers’ world, and her descriptions of what it would be like to be sailing pell-mell down the river in a kettle can almost make me seasick. The characters continue to be splendid. And Beth and Joe Krush’s illustrations are perfect once more.
I love how this one ends. We come back to Firbank where Mrs. Driver and Crampfurl are having their evening meal. Crampfurl is ruminating on a strange sight he saw on the river one night, one of Driver’s darning needles being used as a sort of punt stick for a floating barge (very much like a knife box), and a small thin white face that looked up at him in the moonlight. “No, he wouldn’t tell Driver this. Leastways, not tonight he wouldn’t.” Mm.