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The Narrowboat Summer

by Anne Youngson

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson X
The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson
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  • Published Jan 2021
    336 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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  • Rana A., BookFabulous, Fairfax VA
    A slow burner -- charming and moving
    No sooner do Sally, Eve, and ailing Anastasia haphazardly meet for the first time over a howling dog than readers are treated to a leisurely contemplative tale centered around the unlikeliest of sisterhoods. During the time the women spend getting to know one another on their journey, they encounter a kaleidoscope of memorable eccentric – often funny, at times dubious - boat dwellers whose experiences and stories force the two middle-aged women into rethinking their own life choices.

    If there's one thing that Youngson excels in it is her mastery in depicting the whole range of individual varieties of human interactions, emotions and eccentricities rendering her characters – both primary and peripheral - relatable, grounded in reality and redeemable despite their many flaws. As the characters' histories slowly unravel, we better understand not only the motives behind their interactions with each other, but also their personal struggles, past regrets and future longings as we are simultaneously treated to the challenges as well as the serenity and simplicity of a life lived on the water.

    That said, the novel's themes, around friendship, love, kindness, hope and forgiveness, makes "The Narrowboat Summer" a perfect bookclub choice.
  • Pamela D. (Tomball, TX)
    A summer afloat
    Three women meet on a towpath along a canal near London, strangers brought together by a howling dog in a narrowboat, all three at crossroads in their life. Anastacia, the boat owner, teaches Eve and Sally how to operate the narrowboat and trusts them to deliver it to the repair facility in Chester, over 200 miles north, a trip that would take more than six weeks. Six weeks that would change their lives.

    The story reads like a narrowboat trip – slow, meandering, graceful & enriching. Along the way, Eve & Sally meet a variety of people, some of whom will become dear friends and some who will remain just people they met.

    A perfect book club read – so many episodes ripe for discussion and consideration. This is a book I will reread next summer and dream of my own narrowboat trip.
  • Elizabeth V. (Bellbrook, OH)
    A Coming of Age Story for Older Adults
    Life is full of changes and transitions but most coming of age stories focus on the transition for youth to adulthood. It was refreshing to read a story that focused on older adults "coming of age" and realizing their full potential. I also enjoyed that the author allowed both Sally and Eve to find happiness without the necessity of a romantic pairing. That struck me as more authentic than if one or both of them found a "happily ever after" romantic partner. Many of us are happily single older adults and it was nice to have the book reflect that.

    The pacing of the book is appropriately slow and in that, I felt it reflected the movement of the narrowboat. I really enjoyed reading about the mechanics of maneuvering a boat through the locks and the descriptions of taking the boat through tunnels was so vivid I could almost feel the claustrophobia.

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I will happily add Anne Youngson to my "must read" author list.
  • Marci G. (Sicklerville, NJ)
    Joy to Read
    One of the joys of reading is discovering an interest about a subject you know nothing about. Life on a narrow boat on English Canals? Oh yes! This book led me to discover an unknown world of traveling on English Canals. Not only is the scene of this story intriguing but each character is rich in personality with their individual quirks, each on their own journeys through life. I appreciated each character and what they brought to the story. Anastasia in all her craggy glory the impetus for the journey. Sally and Eve so different yet complimenting each other to make life work. The peripheral characters of Trompette, Arthur, Jacob, Owen, Billy each adding a new dimension. The ending! I am clutching my e-reader to my chest! I selected this book to read since I enjoyed Ms.Youngson's "Meet Me at The Museum." I am delighted with The Narrowboat Summer!
  • Terri O. (Chapel Hill, NC)
    The Narrowboat Summer
    The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson is a gentle, peaceful exploration of the possibilities of momentous change in lives that seem completely settled. The three main characters, two middle aged (Sally and Eve) and one elderly (Anastasia), find their lives turned upside down by various circumstances (a failed marriage, job loss, and a medical crisis). A chance encounter brings these three strangers together, and before they know it, Sally and Eve have agreed to drive Anastasia's narrowboat hundreds of miles to a boatyard in Chester so that Anastasia can remain in the London area for medical treatment. Despite having no experience with narrowboats or canals, Sally and Eve discover that canal life suits them. The slow pace of the journey allows them to reflect on their lives—where they've been and, more importantly, where they want to go from there. The main characters are well developed, and the friendships that form during the journey are deep and abiding. I especially appreciated the largely drama-free interactions between Sally and Eve as they thoughtfully navigated their new friendship—it was a refreshing change from the stereotypical rivalry-type female relationships that are often depicted in novels. But my favorite character in the book is the canals themselves—the lyrical descriptions of canal life made me long for my own narrowboat summer. This novel would appeal to those who enjoy books by Helen Simonson, Phaedra Patrick, Rachel Joyce, and Fredrik Backman, as well as anyone who yearns to make a change in their seemingly settled lives.
  • Carol N. (Indian Springs Village, AL)
    Narrowboat Summer
    I fell in love with this book the more I read. I have something in common with two of the women - I am older and I was disenchanted with my job and recently retired. I also fell in love with the English countryside as it was described in the book. It takes place mostly on the canals of England and made me want to take a boat trip of my own.

    The story was interesting and I loved seeing the women grow and develop as they traveled. The inclusion of the younger couple was interesting as well although I do not want to hear more of their story.

    I think this book will be excellent for book clubs with enough variety of characters for everyone to find a favorite. It was a quick read for me but that may have been because I was so fond of everyone and wanted to see how things ended.
  • Molly O. (Centennial, CO)
    The Narrowboat Summer
    Author Ann Youngson has a gift for taking the ordinary and using it as a background to explore complexities of friendship. Two complete strangers agree to ferry a narrowboat through canals in England as a favor to a third stranger. During their languid trip through locks, tunnels and bridges, Sally and Eve perform the quotidian chores of life on a boat while experiencing new relationships. These two women and Anastasia, the narrowboat owner, are each facing an uncertain future where they must decide their places in it. Their newly forged friendship will be the bond that helps them steer the path forward. Beautiful, lyrical writing and a keen sense of place makes this a leisurely read through the English countryside much as the narrowboat glides through the canals.
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