Another one from Boyle that was immensely enjoyable - funny, witty, bawdy, and sometimes shocking. Great writer! This book was Boyle's first novel. It's basically the story of Mungo Park, the Scottish explorer who was the first European to see the Niger River in Africa. During the first 3/4 of the novel, the story switches from Mungo's adventures to the story of Ned Rise a thief, scoundrel, and all-round con man in the filthy streets of late 18th century London. Although I did really enjoy Mungo's adventures, Ned Rise has to be one of Boyle's most unforgettable characters. Just when he thinks he has the world by a string, disaster always seems to hit but he somehow always lands on his feet - he even survived his own hanging! Boyle's use of the English language is a marvel to behold. His vocabulary is never ending and his descriptive narrative is marvelous. He can make you feel like you are experiencing a place by just talking about it. For example his description of the streets of London during this time period makes you feel as if you are there: "At this time in history the streets of London were as foul, feculent and disease-ridden as a series of interconnected dunghills, twice as dangerous as a battlefield, and as infrequently maintained as the lower cells of an asylum dungeon....There was pigeonshit. Mud, coal dust, ashes, dead cats, dogs, rats, scraps of cloth stained with excrement, and worst of all, open sewers....Grim shopkeepers trudged out into the roadway to dump their chamberpots, barmen limed the walls outside their establishments to deaden the reek of urine, housekeepers flung buckets of nightsoil from second- and third-story windows... --not only was the pedestrian up to his ankles in human waste, he also found himself dodging the airborne clods thrown up by the wheels of passing carriages." All in all, another really entertaining story from Boyle. High recommendation.
Too great. I love these bizarre plots with complicated sentance structures and arcane words. Possibly he goes a bit overboard with Ned and his set-back after set-back, but TC Boyle is always an excellent read.