Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Cycling, sniping, spying together in a great story, 23 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Vault (Salt Modern Fiction) (Paperback)
This is a suberbly-written novel, telling several stories on several levels, with themes incorporating bike racing, sniping (of the deadly military kind) and a dual role of first-aider and avenger. McKuen has been injured in the leg during his time in France and the Low Countries in the Second World War, as part of the Allied tide sweeping the Nazis back. After the war, in an adventure that brings him back to post-war Europe, and brings him (his anonymity intact) out of the footnotes of history books, he sees that cycling does no harm to his injured leg. He is able to return to his pre-war love of competitive cycling. I love the notion that a novel can expand on the footnotes of history books, that what is dismissed as legend in a dry study of something can truly have a life of its own in a book. In this one, the characters occasionally rebel against the author, dismiss his romanticising, set the facts right; normally I'm not mad about this kind of post-modern intrusion, mainly, I think, because it's done so smugly and in such a look-how-clever-I-am way, but David Rose avoids this trap. Of his cycling, McKuen states: "In part, it was a vocation, perhaps. In part it was a link with my past, a way of converting the war into a hiatus, a way to stop it destroying me, as it destroyed others, sunk into a restless apathy." I like that idea, that a character can be strong enough to treat something like the war as part of his development. The cycling sequences are very well done - and it's clear to me that David Rose has been a part of this minority sport, and knows it well - but not, I think, overdone. Mind you, I am a fan of cycling, anyway. McKuen goes on to another career with its own perils, goes on arguing with the author who dogs him, goes on to conclusion that the reader can probably guess at. Though low-key, the book is full of humour, and full of surprises, and I enjoyed it very much.
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