Maidens' Trip

Maidens' Trip

3.73 (87 ratings by Goodreads)
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In 1943 Emma Smith signed on with the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company under their wartime scheme of employing women to replace the boaters who had joined up. Emma sets out with Nanette and Charity on a big adventure: three eighteen-year-old girls, freed from a conventional middle-class background, precipitated into the world of the boating fraternity. Never before had they met such people, the women with plaited hair and gold earrings, the men with choker scarves and darkly sunburnt faces, whole families existing for generation after generation on boats painted the brilliant colours of blue and scarlet, white and glossy black, living hard but undisturbed lives - until the arrival of these incomprehensible young creatures from another planet. Presented with the motor boat Venus and its butty boat, the Ariadne, the three girls embark on their maiden trip.
They learn how to handle a pair of seventy-two foot-long canal boats, how to carry a cargo of steel north from London to Birmingham and, on the return journey south, coal from Coventry; how to navigate hazardous locks in the apparently unceasing rain; how to splice ropes, bail out bilge water, keep the engine ticking over and steer through tunnels. They live off kedgeree and fried bread and jam, adopt a kitten, lose their bicycles, laugh and quarrel and get progressively dirtier and tougher as the weeks go by. First published in 1948, Maidens' Trip is a classic memoir of the growth to maturity of three young women in the exceptional circumstances of Britain at war. Informative and fascinating, it breathes new life into England's canals and is vivacious, entertaining and poignant. A pure delight.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 140 x 218 x 28mm | 458.13g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0747598967
  • 9780747598961
  • 791,609

Review quote

'"It must have been an astonishing imposition for the canal people when war brought them dainty young girls to help them mind their business, clean young eager creatures with voices so pitched as to be almost impossible to understand." So begins this joyous and rare memoir of a time when a group of girls 'in the deep sea of adolescence' work the barges in England during World War Two. One envies Emma Smith's precise and sly humour in her portrait of life on the canals, the details on the opening of a lock, and most of all the catching of that era and that adventure that now will live forever' Michael Ondaatje
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About Emma Smith

Emma Smith was born Elspeth Hallsmith in 1923 in Newquay, Cornwall, where until the age of twelve, she lived with her mother and father, an elder brother and sister, and a younger brother. Her book, Maiden's Trip, was first published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. Her second, The Far Cry, was published the following year and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 1951 Emma Smith married Richard Stewart-Jones. After her husband's death in 1957 she went to live with her two young children in Wales, where she proceeded to write and have published four successful children's books, a number of short stories and, in 1978, her novel The Opportunity of a Lifetime. Since 1980 she has lived in the London district of Putney. In 2008 she published The Great Western Beach, her memoir of her Cornish childhood. Once again, it gained widespread critical acclaim.
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Rating details

87 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 24% (21)
4 34% (30)
3 33% (29)
2 7% (6)
1 1% (1)
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