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 Bri"/>

Rapids

Tim Parks, Author . Arcade $24 (245p) ISBN 978-1-55970-811-1

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)

Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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