Water Music – Whores, Thieves, Sex, Clarinets

I have just finished reading a very strange book, Water Music by T.C. Boyle, an author I had never heard of, but found to be an immensely enjoyable read.

In the publisher’s blurb, they give an idea of what it is about:-

A funny, bawdy, extremely entertaining novel of imaginative and stylistic fancy that announced to the world Boyle’s tremendous gifts as a storyteller. Set in the late eighteenth century, Water Music follows the wild adventures of Ned Rise, thief and whoremaster, and Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer, through London’s seamy gutters and Scotland’s scenic highlands—to their grand meeting in the heart of darkest Africa. There they join forces and wend their hilarious way to the source of the Niger.


Whilst to a degree, this is a realistic description of this book, it falls far short of the complex reality of the book.  This book starts of as a humerous look at the mixed up world of 18th Century Britain, drawing contrasts between urban and rural life in those days, and we are treated to a no holds barred look at the god awful life that most people led in those unsavoury days.

We are also introduced to the world of exploration, as the Great Powers of the time – France, Britain, Germany et.al struggle to take over the rest of the world, and in this case, Africa. Specifically trying to find the fabled river, the Niger. This river is used as a sort of symbol for all that the white people hoped to extract from Africa – wealth, power and slaves.

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