Read an Excerpt
Down in the confines of the cabin, Bill sat on the sidebed,
reached forward to riddle the fire, threw on a couple more lumps
of coal. The little range was almost glowing, the kettle singing
merrily on its top-plate; golden light from the oil-lamps gleamed
on the brass of the fiddle-rails, the polished knobs and handles of
the drawers and the table-cupboard, made the gold edging of the
hanging-up plates sparkle. A feeling of deep contentment filled
the boater: Folks on the bank could keep their fancy houses, their
upstairs and downstairs rooms, their electric light; all he and his
kind needed was a good boat, a cosy cabin, and a steady flow of
orders to keep them loaded and travelling, to keep the money
In the hatches, Little Bill leant on the slide with one arm, the
tiller tucked under the other, peering forward into the bright gloom
of the winter night. They hadn’t lit the headlamp – with so much
light coming from the fields under the moon, there was no need
for it – and he steered to follow the gleam of water, under Black
Horse Bridge and out around the hill at Stantonbury, round Target
Turn, by the old army firing range, and on, under the turnpike
road again to pass the old derelict windmill on its hilltop at
Bradwell. A brief stretch of open countryside, and then they were
skirting behind the railway works of Wolverton, the glow and
clamour of the night shift shattering the peace of the canal, all but
drowning out the Bolinder’s steady beat.
"Few works of fiction are reviewed in waterways magazines, but this book certainly deserves notice. The novel follows the fortunes of a lad as he adjusts to a completely different kind of life that he has – quite literally – tumbled into by accident. Readers of the book might find it overpoweringly moving in parts – you have been warned, keep your hankies ready!
This is a story that involves canals and the lives of the boat people around the time of the Second World War. The author was able to draw on his own experience of the canals and his knowledge of the working methods, traditions and manners of the men and women who lived and worked on the boats.
The story unfolds through the experiences of this young boy as he learns about life on the cut; he learns a whole new vocabulary along with new skills, and shares in the joys and sorrows of the boat people’s life. Real events are woven in, such as the sinking of HMS Hood and the bombing of the Fazeley Street Wharf, and the descriptions of their various journeys are impressive.
Sit back with your hanky ready, and let the story flow over you. It is a tale to melt all hearts".
Reprinted from Canals & Rivers, March 2008.
"In this, his sixth published novel, Geoffrey Lewis takes us back to the canals in wartime as seen through the eyes of a growing boy discovering both the waterways and his own place in the world. Michael Thompson runs away from home as a ten-year-old and re-learns trust and affection as part of the working boat community, accurately drawn by the author from his own wide experience over many years. Historic events of the 1940’s are woven into this tale of tragedy and joy".
Reprinted from Canal Boat, September 2006.