Parks, whose Europa was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, sets his highly engrossing novel on a swollen, swift-moving river in the Italian Alps, where 13 Brits from a London kayak club have come to run the rapids. Vince, a timid, middle-aged banker, recently widowed, serves as the story's center and worries that he won't be able to keep up with the group. He has good reason: Clive, the guide, is a fierce environmentalist and veteran of antiglobalization demonstrations whose frustration with peaceful protests coupled with his shock over the death of two fellow demonstrators leads him to consider-with ominous undertones-doing "something bigger" for the cause. In Clive's wake is Michela, a young Italian whose clinging, worshipful love of Clive renders her increasingly unstable as the trip progresses. Parks keeps the kayaking scenes lively, and he nails the strange hierarchical culture of group trips-and their possibility for implosion. It's part of what transforms Vince, who begins by ruminating over his wife's cryptic last words ("I'm so, so sorry"), but who, over the course of the trip, loses himself in the immediacy of the rushing river, and in Michela, with whom he forges a peculiar bond. It's an urgent, thoughtful and convincing portrayal. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
On the surface, this latest novel from Parks (Destiny) tells the story of a group of kayaking enthusiasts learning how to hold their own in the white water of the Italian Alps. In fact, this novel is about the inner struggles of three of these characters: Clive, the rugged instructor who yearns to change the world; Michela, his loyal girlfriend, whose deepest wish is to leave Italy; and Vince, a high-powered British banker who is literally and figuratively drowning in the aftermath of his wife's death. On a more philosophical level, Parks also examines the nature of extreme sports and those who participate in them. Parks's writing style perfectly matches his subject matter. It ebbs and flows like a river, twisting and turning like the rapids. Eschewing quotation marks, his dialog flows into the narrative as seamlessly as a creek meeting a river. While some readers may become alienated by the incessant jargon, kayakers and canoeists will love this book precisely because of Parks's intimate knowledge of the sport. Recommended for large fiction collections.-Karen Walton Morse, Univ. at Buffalo Lib., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The prolific British author's 12th novel returns him to Italy (where Parks and his family reside) for an intriguing change of pace. It's the story of a four-day "community experience" in which 15 would-be adventurers-six adults and nine teenagers-embark on a white-water kayaking trip along the Aurino River in the Southern Tyrol region of the Italian Alps. They're a predictably mixed lot, including middle-aged bank executive Vincent, a recent widower, and the daughter (Louise) who's growing up (and away from him) too quickly to be capable of sharing in his grief; overweight, over-eager Keith, an ardent, ingenuous boy in a swollen man's body; cold-fish Max, a know-it-all student ruled by a mordant, contemptuous sense of humor; and river guide Clive, an aging ecological activist who does not refrain from delivering lectures on global warming (e.g., melting glaciers are making the waters they're all traveling far more dangerous than usual) and irresponsible public policies-that is, when he's not dashing off to earth-friendly conferences or protest demonstrations, or punishing his younger Italian girlfriend Michela by refusing to have sex. Vince's burgeoning interest in the attractive Michela sparks one helpful complication, as do the cantankerous pronouncements of "canoeing" instructor Adam, whose bitter distrust of the motives of self-declared earth-savers estranges him from his own confused, withdrawn son, Mark. It's all more than a little contrived and top-heavy-as is an enthusiast's overabundance of detail about the metaphysics and techniques of braving those all-too-symbolic rapids (they are the meandering and treacherous currents of our lives, dear reader, and you are not to forget it).Nevertheless, Parks writes so knowledgeably and graphically about the exhilaration of engaging the unknown on its own unforgiving terms that it's impossible not to be swept along the Aurino, despite the narrative's blustering excesses. Not for every taste, but it's another illustration of the range of Tim Parks's seemingly inexhaustible talents.