Take a healthy serving of 19th-century picaresque adventure, stir in a generous handful of between-the-sheets, Tom Jones-like ribaldry, bake it all in the ironic literary stylings of the late twentieth century, and you might just come up with T. Coraghessan Boyle’s first novel,Water Music.
First published in 1983 and now in its 21st printing, Water Music follows the parallel adventures of British explorer Mungo Park, and London low-life, Ned Rise. The two men’s alternating narratives wend and weave their way through England and Scotland at the end of the eighteenth century. Eventually their fortunes collide in the middle of the African jungle when the ever-resourceful Ned joins Park on his second expedition up the Niger River.
This wonderfully atmospheric novel fairly bursts at the seams with larger-than-life characters. You will meet Fatima, the four-hundred pound African queen and Katunga Oyuo, aka Johnson, who offers to guide Park up the Niger River for the price of a complete set of the works of WIlliam Shakespeare. Inhabiting exotic and dangerous settings, from the slums of old London to cannibal-infested African swamps, Boyle’s writing vividly displays a lust for life that knows few bounds and even less propriety.
Water Music is a hilarious romp across two continents and you can reserve it here.