Halfway To Venus: A One-Armed Journey

Posted on: 10 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A beautifully-written, honest and engaging account of life with one arm by Sarah Anderson, founder of Notting Hill’s Travel Bookshop.


"My mother closed the door and turned towards me, and without saying anything, she made a chopping motion with her right hand above her left elbow. I thought my world had come to an end."

At the age of ten Sarah Anderson developed synovial sarcoma, an extremely rare but virulent cancer which led, six months later, to her arm being amputated.

Halfway to Venus is about living with one arm, as a traveller and independent spirit, determined to overcome any setbacks it presented to her.

It is also about other people who have lost their arms, about phantom and prosthetic limbs, about what hands and arms mean in different cultures and how they are portrayed in art and literature.

Life with one arm is different in many subtle ways and this deeply personal book demonstrates why and how this is. Sarah examines people’s reactions, from the casual to the more highly charged; she looks at the effect, both erotic and otherwise, of having only one arm on sexual and romantic encounters, describing both poignantly and entertainingly what she has learnt.

Among many other experiences, she visits Lourdes and, going from the sublime to the ridiculous, she takes part in a One Armed Dove Hunt in Texas.

Sarah Anderson was born in 1947. She read Chinese at London University, has travelled widely and went on to set up the Travel Bookshop in 1979 arranging the books country by country in the belief that you can learn as much about a country from its literature and history as from guide books. The bookshop moved to Notting Hill in 1981 and became world famous as the bookshop on which the film Notting Hill was based. She has written many travel articles, gives talks and has published several books.

Halfway to Venus: A One-Armed Journey, by Sarah Anderson, published by Umbrella Books, is available at all good book shops, RRP £12.99, or online from Amazon for £8.44.

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