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on 4 January 2005
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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 December 2012
Twice short-listed for prizes such as the Booker in 1997 and 2003, Parks has been overlooked too often to be fair to his literary talents. His book Judge Savage and his Italian murder mystery series Cara Massimina and Mimi's Ghost are my favourites of his work so far, but I have lots of other titles to try. This one has the background of the European Parliament and takes place over four days of a trip to Brussels to deliver a petition to put foreign language translaters on the same salary as Italian nationals doing the same job. We see everything from Jerry's consciousness. He is one of the delegates, and though he is an intelligent and attractive protagonist, he alternates between a brusquely non communicative and vaguely hostile attitude, and being one of the lads. The sexism is shockingly endemic; the girl students are "tottie," (a sneeringly abusive term for a group of girl students brought along to add their support to the project. Or alternatively, to provide the male teachers with entertainment). Jerry's friend, Vikram Griffiths and his dog Dafydd - a mongrel that Jerry dislikes on sight, the enigmatic and too-smooth Georg, and the creepily sexist, Colin are a few of the other tutors on the trip. What saves it from a bad Carry-On up The Alps sequence is the sad, witty, and sometimes excoriating freize of impressions, thoughts and memories that run through Jerry's mind.

Even though this is brilliantly rendered and reads with perfect and timely pitch, it can feel overwhelming. Many of his books use this relentless internal consciousness and do succeed in pulling off what must be a bit of a writing nightmare (to turn oneself into someone else in successive books!) Parks does it brilliantly - in at least two other fictions I can think of off-hand - the above named Judge Savage, and in Shear (also one of my favourite books).

Also aboard the Eurocoach is the woman with whom Jerry had a recent and torrid affair. (to some extent this relationship balances the sexism since she's largely been the one in charge here) But it's not over for her, and it's not over for him, however hard he tries to fight it. A tragedy lies in wait at the heart of this book. It is deeply involving, unexpectedly sad, discursive, sometimes sharply erotic, at other moments challenging and moving.
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on 9 May 2001
As a fellow Englishman in Italy I absoloutely devoured 'Italian Neighbours' and An Italian Education' which seemed to be written just for me! Europa is my first T Parks novel however and although I found the style a little hard going at the beginning, I was soon taken in by its compulsive narrative style and the intricacy of the characters. The "train of thought" style is at once 'heavy' yet logical. Great stuff .. looking forward to 'Destiny' and who knows whether I shall bump into the man himself one day in our adopted nation!
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on 3 March 2016
Assuming that you're not put off by the prose style which uses long, rambling, clause-cluttered Proustian sentences, or by the fact that the narrator isn't a particularly likeable fellow, there's an awful lot to enjoy here.
As Marlowe picks over the scabs of his failed relationship with a fellow language teacher, we are treated to a series of perceptive and witty remarks on everything from sex to philosophy to nationality to architecture to language. Wait, I'm making it sound awfully dry and pompous, aren't I? In fact the emotional charge is the book's main strength; the overwhelming sensations of regret and frustration with oneself and the way one behaves in relationships, the way we deceive ourselves about what we see in our partners.
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on 5 April 2015
Booker shortlisted, Europa is a ferociously intelligent and witty novel. The brilliantly sustained first-person stream of consciousness narration comes from Jerry Marlow, who – struggling with a mid-life crisis of sorts – finds himself on a coach to Strasbourg with other Milan University staff (including a woman with whom he had recently had an intense affair) to petition the European Parliament about employment rights. Characters are extremely well drawn. You can read this as political satire and/or as a study of excruciating human situations. I was sorry when it ended and am now keen to try out more by this author. Recommendations?
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on 11 December 2000
Parks does an awesome job of digging deep into his characters and showing the reader their real thoughts. He dispells the idea of a United Europe and deals with complex issues that most wouldn't like to face. All of this is presented in a unique and interesting fashion with the main character's constant self-evaluation.
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on 25 August 1999
Using mixed nationalities and tortured personal relationships the Author explodes the myth of a United Europe. Only the second book I've read in fifty years that immediately convinced me it will become a classic. A MUST for English abroad.
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on 6 May 1999
Great characterisation, a must for anyone living, working or with an interest in Europe, I enjoyed the way the characters meshed and the excentricities implicitly unveiled. I urge you to read it.
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on 19 May 2000
It takes a while to get used to the writing style but once tuned in to it's slow pace, the book is a pleasure to read. Guaranteed to convince you that a united Europe is a hopeless dream when the heart and mind remain such opaque, inexplicable things. Read it!
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