The Narrowboat Summer

Eve has spent the last 30 years working for an engineering/manufacturing company managing various projects and climbing the corporate ladder. Suddenly, she has been “released” from her position. She is a corporate scapegoat for systemic problems within her company and, as the only woman at her management level, the seemingly obvious choice for where to place the blame. While she is excellent at her job, and planning/execution is her specialty, she has no idea how to deal with this unexpected development in her ordered life.

Sally has decided that she can no longer live the life she has been living. She has been perfectly comfortable at 42 Beech Grove. She has been married to her husband for 25 years and together they have two adult children. Recently, Sally has come to realize that, while she has been comfortable, she isn’t happy. She knows that both she and Duncan, her husband, both deserve more and better from their lives. So, she needs to leave 42 Beech Grove. She just isn’t sure where she is going to go.

Anastasia lives, along with her dog, Noah, on a narrowboat on the English canals. She is happy with her life and has no time or patience for those who might interfere with how she lives her life. Some things, however, are out of her control. Like the medical condition that requires scans and tests and, possibly, an operation. Prolonged time in the hospital will require a long-term mooring for her boat, which she cannot currently afford. She also must get her boat to Chester, a four-week journey at least, for some required maintenance and work prior to renewing her permits to be on the canals. So, she is faced with the difficult choice between two necessary actions that cannot be completed simultaneously, unless she has help.

Three women, who are incredibly different in almost every significant way, and a dog, set out to accomplish a set of required tasks and, in the process, find themselves on a life altering journey of self-discovery along the English canals

In Anne Youngson’s sophomore novel, The Narrowboat Summer, she follows these three women, along with Noah, as they navigate the British canals and the demands of their individual existences. This is a gentle novel, paced to match the mode of transportation that is central to the story (narrowboats move at approximately 4 MPH), allowing readers to discover the two main characters, Eve and Sally, as they discover themselves, and each other on their way along the canals from Uxbridge, a town northeast of London, to Chester, a town south of Liverpool.

Youngson’s use of the UK canal system is wonderful. It not only slows both women down from the rapid pace of their regular lives, it also provides a marvelous metaphor for life in general: moving along prescribed lines, navigating the locks, tunnels, and intersections, and the community that exists, it seems solely on the canals, bringing individuals that join them on their journey for varying degrees of time.

The Narrowboat Summer is a kind, sensitive, and thoughtful novel about finding yourself, finding others, and discovering what can happen when you slow down long enough to really plan where you want to go.

You can read an interview with the author here.