Jerry Marlow narrates his thoughts and happenings during a bus journey to Strasbourg by Milan-based foreign lecturers and supporting students to air grievances in the European parliament. Marlow is having a bitter, mid-life crisis after marriage
break-up; difficulties with his teenage daughter, and a further break-up with a female student - who is also on the bus-trip.. The undoubted strength of this work is Tim Parks' prose: extremely long sentences set down the cerebral Marlow's jostling and competing thoughts in a challenging, yet highly readable, 'stream of consciousness' narrative.
Aside from Marlow himself, there are a number of other well-drawn and intriguing characters, most notably the trip-organiser, Indian-Welshman Vikram Griffiths. Along the way, Marlow unleashes his criticisms of various issues regarding the new Europe, including the wastefulness and cost of maintaining parliaments in both Brussels and Strasbourg; rivalries and jealousies in the supposed united Europe; the sterility of modern European architecture; communication problems, and pre-Euro currency dramas. Although this material is well-handled and interesting, much of it has been extensively covered in the media and some of the issues already feel a bit dated. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend this novel primarily for the quality of the writing and the chance to enter the mind of the bitter, troubled and intelligent narrator.