Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Maidens' Trip

I have been on the look-out for this book by Emma Smith for a while, even since I learned that it was about the war service of young women on the canals during the Second War War, and had recently been re-issued. It's an intriguing subject. This was her first book, published in 1948, when she was only twenty-five. It was based on her own experiences and she explains in the introduction is part fact, part fiction. She wrote it at breakneck speed in three months and it does show in places. It veers between the first and the third person rather disconcertingly, but no matter. It is full of youthful verve, innocence, joie-de-vivre and, she frankly confesses, egotism. It's the story of three young women - all under twenty - taking a boat full of steel to Birmingham and bringing back a cargo of coal, an arduous and even dangerous journey. I loved it. There's some wonderful writing and some piercing little insights: 'we tried to delay the passing of any portion of our lives, we still imagined that we lost, not gained the minutes.'

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