The Pull of the River: A Journey into the Wild and Watery Heart of Britain  -  Matt Gaw

The Pull of the River: A Journey into the Wild and Watery Heart of Britain - Matt Gaw

Three men in a boat becomes two men in a canoe!

On first starting to read this, I thought ‘Dear God, the writer suffers from verbal diarrhoea,’ such was the verbosity. I openly admit that at this stage I was not over enamoured and wondered just what was actually going to come out of this book, which incidentally, is the author’s first.

I was wrong, very wrong, and I’m glad I persevered and read every last page.

The author’s expansive use of the English language is a perfect way of describing the easy going trips along British waterways. It sets the scene, but it also sets the flow. Removing the graceful, wordy, descriptions would simply destroy this work.

The book itself mainly tells the tales of two men in a home-made bright red canoe, paddling their way along several rivers. - There are two episodes where the author uses a different canoe and ventures out on his own.

As complete canoeing novices, some of what they do is truly foolhardy and not to be recommended; but the author shares the tales, ‘warts and all,’ which I think he deserves full credit for. Few people are happy at telling the world of their self inflicted mistakes. I think that this is the kind of book that if it becomes discussed in a pub is likely to result in drunken, “Yeah, we can do that,” copycat adventures, with potentially disastrous outcomes.

What is interesting though are the myriad of little facts that the author throws in with his prose. Nice little gems such as Mathew Webb training for his channel swim in the River Severn and how the poor chap died in the Niagra River and was buried there: or how the Thames was so polluted and cleaned up with a vast underground network of sewers, but only after the 1858 ‘big stink’ had made life uncomfortable for those residing in the Houses of Parliament. Politicians looking after themselves: Who’d’ve thought it?

Parts of the book genuinely made me smile and at one point I nearly choked with an unexpected comment about beavers. I’m not sure if the author was intending to be funny or not, but it certainly hit my funny-bone: much to the good lady’s chagrin as she was trying to watch TV at the time.

For my own personal taste I’d like to have seen some pictures in this book. I think that they would have added so much to the tales. I’d also have liked to know a little more about ‘Pipe’, their canoe and how it was made. But I guess I’m really nitpicking here.

The book was a good read and the 10 chapters (1 per river adventure) lasted me for two weeks as gentle pre-bedtime reading, along with a few glasses of nicely aged whisky.

I’m more than happy to run to 4 anchors on this book, I’d run to 41/2 had there been some informative pictures.