The Amateur Boatwomen
by Eily (Kit) Gayford
Following hard on the heels of Idle Women, I read through The Amateur Boatwomen by Eily Gayford. This makes an excellent counterpart to Susan Woolfitt book on the same topic of the little band of female wartime boaters who did their bit for king and country.
In fact, Eily Gayford was the prime mover behind the scheme, serving as head trainer and administrator, referred to in Idle Women as Kit. So how do the books compare?
Well, this book covers more ground, starting in the Birmingham / Worcester area before moving onto the Grand Union. It covers more time starting in 1941 and continues the take of wartime carrying through to the cessation of hostilities in 1945, and it has greater scope in the subject matter addressed so it has to be the better book - right?
Wrong! For all its plusses, this book isn't a patch on Idle Women, its counterpoint with the catchy title. For all its potential I have to conclude that Susan Woolfitt was the better writer and its interesting that her book seems to have stood the test of time whereas this one languishes in relative obscurity.
The Amateur Boatwomen focuses on the canals whereas Idle Women concentrates on the life lived and the experience of entering this closed world of rivalries and support. And when all is said and done, its life's relationships which we remember rather than places visited.
Don't get me wrong, its not a bad book. Its well worth reading and it carried me on my way to Turkey very successfully, but if you were to read just one book on the subject it should be the other one!