Wednesday 16 May 2012

Recommended Narrowboat Books

When I’m not writing, business blogging, parenting or narrowboating I like to get my nose stuck into a narrowboat book.

Terry Darlington, author of Narrow Dog To Carcassonne will be signing copies of his book Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier at this year’s Crick Boat Show. The new book sees him travelling the north of England with his wife Monica and their two dogs. Narrow Dog to Carcassonne was the bestselling travel book of 2006, and this latest will be his third book.

Terry’s first book is the only modern boating travelogue that I’ve read, so Steve Haywood’s books are quite high on my reading list. He’s written One Man and a Narrowboat: Slowing Down Time on England's Waterways and Narrowboat Dreams about his own travels and the history of the canals. I have however read the original boating travelogue: Tom Rolt’s Narrow Boat . This is a lovely lyrical log about Tom and Angela’s travels in 1939 through an idyllic rural England.

I tried to find books about narrowboat women and so discovered The Amateur Boatwomen (Working Waterways) by Eily Gayford. This is a fascinating account of the author’s experience training women to work narrowboats during the Second World War. I like the bit where they sit in a cabin laughing at the seemingly impossible thought that boats might one day have “a bathroom with hot and cold taps, fitted carpets, a Hoover, (and) a telephone!”

I then read Ramlin Rose, by Sheila Stewart: This is probably one of my favourite books ever! I met some travelling boat girls up the River Stort a couple of years ago and asked them if they’d read anything about narrowboat families: They recommended Ramlin Rose. Sheila Stewart had wanted to interview a Banbury boatwoman and write her biography, but ended up compiling a number of true stories into a fictional life story.

This month I have read my first historical boat novel; Water Gypsies by Annie Murray. This is a sequel to The Narrowboat Girl, but I was told the cut does not actually feature that much in the first book, so I went straight for the sequel. Water Gypsies begins in 1942 and describes a series of tragedies that befall the heroine, who is tormented by a miserable past!

Marie Browne’s Narrow Margins is a modern tale of a family aboard, trying to make a new start after losing their IT company and large house when Rover went bust. They move their children and dog onto a dilapidated narrowboat called Happy Go Lucky and teach themselves about narrowboat life and boat refurbishment as they go along.The sequel, Narrow Minds describes their return to the water on another run down boat. There's an interview with Marie Browne on the Sunday Mercury website.

Next on my list of books to read about families on boats is For Better For Worse, For Richer For Poorer by Damian and Siobhan Horner. This husband and wife team have written a memoir about leaving their careers and lives ashore, to travel the French canals with their two young children.

Of course, if I didn’t spend so much time reading narrowboat books I might finish writing my own: The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife. Then it could be me signing copies at next year’s Crick Boat Show…

Come and say hello to me at the Boatshed Grand Union standat Crick this year.

For more information about this year’s Crick Boat Show visit or call 01283 742972.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union, and it contains affiliate links to Amazon.

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