Author(s): Tim Parks
In the dramatic landscape of the Italian Alps a group of English canoeists arrive for an 'introduction to white water.' Camping, eating and paddling together, six adults and nine adolescents seem set to enjoy what their leader insists on calling a 'community experience.' Their hosts are Clive, a taciturn figure, and Michela, his fragile girlfriend. Joining the group late are Vince, a banker trying to make sense of the flotsam of his existence, and his teenage daughter whom he feels moving inexorably away from him. The dangerous river manages to bring out the group's qualities and failings in the most urgent fashion, provoking sudden conflicts and unexpected shifts of alliance. An ideal love affair breaks down and an apparently impossible one timidly buds. A banal disagreement turns violent. Meanwhile, the hottest summer on record is filling the glacier-fed rivers with a melt water so wild that it is surely unwise of the distracted instructors to launch their party into the last day's descent of the upper Aurina.