Tight in the Cockpit

Joanna Kavenna

  • Rapids by Tim Parks
    Secker, 246 pp, £15.99, March 2005, ISBN 0 436 20559 9

Tim Parks’s latest novel opens in the forests of the South Tyrol, where a group of white-water enthusiasts are taking a kayaking holiday. The river is overflowing with melt water from a thawing glacier, and the kayakers find themselves endangered by the force of the current, as the river runs ever faster and fuller. It’s a symbolic river, too: Parks explores the ripples of minor social dramas experienced by a group of semi-strangers; the undercurrent of their memories, their past unhappinesses; and the crashing waves of environmental apocalypse.

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[*] His latest book, Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics and Art in 15th-century Florence (Profile, 288 pp., £15.99, May, 1 86197 791 3), an expansive history of Renaissance wheeling and dealing, sticks to Parks’s rules for non-fiction: unshowy erudition, relaxed courtesy.