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Maidens' Trip [Hardcover]

Emma Smith
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jun 2009
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.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598961
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 579,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Emma Smith was born Elspeth Hallsmith in 1923 in Newquay, Cornwall, where she lived until the age of twelve. Her book, Maiden's Trip, was first published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. It was republished in 2009. 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 published four successful children's books, a number of short stories and, in 1978, her novel, The Opportunity of a Lifetime. In 2008 The Great Western Beach, her memoir of her Cornish childhood, was published to widespread acclaim. Since 1980 she has lived in the London district of Putney.

Product Description

Review

'A joyous and rare memoir ... catching that era and that adventure that now will live forever
-- Michael Ondaatje

Book Description

Three girls abandon their middle-class comforts for an adventure of a lifetime during the Second World War. A classic and unforgettable tale. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
A very enjoyable read. Emma Smith brings her experiences on the canals to life - written from the perspective of a volunteer doing her best for England during the War. I knew of the land girls but had never known that the canals were supported during the war by similar patriots.

I read the book during a canal boat holiday covering some of the same waterways described in the book; the contrast in approaches (now 'safety first' and 'relaxed enjoyment', then 'get the goods delivered quickly') was clear.

I recommend reading this book - though the reader must not enter the book expecting the 'maiden' to have any form of sexual experience; perhaps a difference in expectation in literary content between today and 60 years ago!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blissful! 28 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is an evocative account of three young women encountering a truly alien way of life. I first read this book more than 40 years ago at the age of 8 or 9 ( we lived beside the Shropshire Union canal) and I was bewitched by Emma Smith's story and the vivid picture which she drew of a world with it's own rules and traditions, in many ways detached from the war and it's impact. I am about to reread it for the twelfth or so time, whilst on a narrowboat holiday and I will introduce it to my daughters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read 17 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone visiting the canals should have a copy of Maidens' Trip with them. This edition has several photographs of Emma Smith and her chums. A wonderful nostalgic read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful, Wonderful Book 10 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover
An escape into another world, a fleeting glimpse of a vanished life. Fun and seriousness, adventure and graft. I'd been meaning to read this book for a long time and finally got a hardback copy having grown tired of waiting for its paperback reissue. A delight from start to finish, peopled with wonderful characters. It's done in a semi-fictionalised way, with her memoirs and those of others rearranged into one round trip; while I had reservations about this it works very well. Her writing style is a joy - quirky, cheeky, astute, with brevity yet depth.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maidens' Trip 5 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover
I needed to know a bit about the book and finding it 'fun', ordered it. I will be passing it around various friends of all ages as it gives a fascinating insight of 'another' life.
I was also most pleased with the speed of Service provided.
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5.0 out of 5 stars narrowboats supreme 15 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is another excellent read, if like me love the canals and reading about them in the hey day. About three women taking over thier own narrow boats after training in WW2. It was adventure they never invisage.

once again like to the author for excellent read
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5.0 out of 5 stars one for the canal addicts 3 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this was a delightful book and especially appealing to those such as myself who are fans of the british canal system! it would have been even better with more illustrations. i'm going to read Emma Smith's account of her childhood in newquay next. wish there were more
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb
Beautifully written story of how young women with no boating experience took important cargo by narrowboat from Limehouse docks in central London to the Midlands during the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by C. Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars LIGHT READING
I have been interested in canals and their history for some years and this is a very informative book, well written by someone who has obviously studied canal life and the methods... Read more
Published 9 months ago by jivingmalc
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Very interesting and enjoyable. Lets you know how the war affected people and how everyone had to help out. I would recommend this
Published 9 months ago by Tony Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars How to write with amazing insight!
I love all Emma Smith books, but have not received THE FAR CRY , so where is it? I absolutely enjoy her writing!! I would love to tell her personally....she is wonderful... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Brigitte Lister
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I found this book so informative , I had no idea that women were asked to work the waterways in the war. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Annie the grey
5.0 out of 5 stars A good entertaining read
I have had many a good holiday on canals and found this different aspect of journeying completely absorbing and entertaining . Read more
Published 15 months ago by P J Selby
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow reading
But evocative of the 1920s era for a family on the borders between well-off and threatened poverty. Didn't realise that St Ives was a surfing area even in the 1920s - if the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by bendel boy
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