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gertrude

October 2018

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Barbara

Canal Romance

Stuck In A Book has posted today about Maidens’ Trip by Emma Smith, an account of women’s canal work in wartime. It reminded me how important canals with their longboats, narrowboats, barges, whatever, were in children’s fiction in the first half of the twentieth century. I suppose the very earliest reference of this type is Toad and the washerwoman in The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame also presciently included a canary coloured cart; caravans were to feature greatly in children’s fiction. David Severn’s The Cruise of the Maiden Castle (1948) is his second book about the Warner family and is full of detailed and lyrical descriptions of working a boat through the English countryside. It is beautifully illustrated with woodcuts by Joan Kiddell-Monroe and is very romantic writing. There’s nothing romantic about the barge in Two Fair Plaits by Malcolm Saville (also 1948), a ‘Jillies’ adventure about a kidnapped child. This is a wonderfully atmospheric book about London, the Thames and docklands in the late 1940s, for those who like that sort of thing, which I certainly do. A year earlier he had written about the traditional, jolly canal life in The Riddle of the Painted Box, one of the Mary & Michael stories. Barbara Willard wrote three books about the Pennithornes and the second features a canal holiday. Snail and the Pennithornes Next Time was published in 1958; was this the last hurrah of the canal adventure, or can someone think of a later one? The canals were allowed to decline and then whammo, along came the heritage industry and there’s a lot of interest in them again. Katie Fforde is a fan and The Rose Revived is about life afloat. The romance of the canals lives on!

Comments

Thank you!
I had this one, of course, but it's a Dutch canal.
Blimey, the prices! Cheap as chips on ABE from the US.
I'd forgotten that one.
There's Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker which came out in the 80s; I have a copy somewhere, and remember liking it, but can't now remember anything about the plot.
Such a familiar title, yet I've never read it.
Fascinating post Barbara! For some reason I always thought the Severn book would be set in Dorset - probably because of Maiden Castle here! Philip Pullman has the Gyptians live on the canal in Northern Lights I think. He certainly does a great job describing what must be the Jericho area anyway.
Thank you! I'm not sure exactly where the books are set; Severn's books don't have the iconic endpaper maps.

In other news I've found Jam Tomorrow and am enjoying it again: yours to borrow next time we meet up.
Also Life Skills, by Katie Fforde, which has narrowboat holidays, rather than moored as houseboats.
Oh, and did you see that couple who took their narrowboat to the US and sailed(?) it down the East Coast all the way to the Florida Keys? I think there's a book of it too, but I don't know if it's any good.
No! Bonkers.
I knew I'd read anothe KF with narrow boats in but couldn't remember which one it was.
I think there is a canal or barge family in The Railway Children. Slight digression but Mary Renault's wonderful The Friendly Young Ladies also features a lady novelist who lives on a houseboat and writes Westerns! Nicola