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Rapids: A Novel Hardcover – April 12, 2006
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
From Publishers Weekly
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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Set against the backdrop of nature, global warming, and middle-age crises, 15 members of a kayaking club from Britain descend upon the Italian Alps to test their mettle on the white waters of the torrential River Aurino. Clive, the strong and stoic leader of the expedition, along with Michela, his Italian partner, are fresh from protesting globalism in Milan. Vince, a recently widowed banker--whose late wife was formerly active in the group--along with his daughter, joins the group and immediately must confront his own fears, insecurities, and shortcomings, as well as his role in Third World debt and climate change. The rapids are definitely not for beginners. The summer heat has accelerated the melt-off of the glaciers, increasing the volatility of the water, and an unusual number of mishaps result. An infatuation with kayak-savvy but emotionally unstable Michela forces Vince to reappraise his marriage, his career, and his worldview. Parks, author of Europa (1998), shortlisted for the Booker, expertly captures group social dynamics and the Alpine locale, all while maintaining an ongoing sense of environmental calamity. An adrenaline-filled cautionary tale. Benjamin Segedin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
It isn't until quite far into the book that you realise there isn't a plot as such, more of an interaction between characters, and what occurs during the rapid rafting week they meet up for. When you can accept that you are just following the tensions of the young and old, the widowed and the problematic relationships, you begin to relax into the story more. Especially when most of the characters bugger off home and you are left with a more central figure to follow.
In hindsight, this isn't a bad novel, just a poorly conceived one. It is difficult to read at first because of the lengthy paragraphs, the lack of speech marks to distinguish dialogue.
I think it deserves another read to truly contemplate what Parks was trying to do. The whole green peace, look after the world, global warming themes are interesting, especially as he covers every base - not siding with any argument.
It's one of the few novels where kayaking isn't primarily a metaphor for something else, but where you can almost *feel* the water... then again, in some ways it *is* a metaphor, of course, especially when one thinks of the somewhat contrived political rift between the rugged, stoutly anti-globalization activist guide and between his yuppy banker clients who end up acting more responsibly when it comes to the fate of those close and personal rather than remote and exotic.
The ending was disappointing for me, kind of loose, in a way, like a river taking you away, with a couple of different outcomes. Unfortunately, Parks takes leave of his rather grim realism towards the end, when a miraculous survival of resuscitative efforts raises no further eyebrows as she makes it without brain-damage, and that, somehow, invalidates the whole set-up. It was as if the author had been keen on finishing the book off, no matter how, and if the whole book essentially amounted to little but a sequence of well-described river runs - something that also makes sense when one thinks of the rather bland other characters featuring.
So - if you're a white-water enthusiast, you're going to read this book in a single session, and like it - just as I did. If not, it'll leave you annoyed, as it seems to be a good opportunity wasted, wasted by a fine writer. And that's a shame, really.
And it was excellent! A story that grabbed me and didn't let me go, and a great evocation of the country. A story to read on an Italian holiday.
It even made me feel I'd like to take up the sport - for about two seconds :)