Boyle, one of my favorite authors, is a black-humored satirist. His books are usually based on historical events and people, but that's where the reality usually ends. Water Music is ostensibly about the "discovery" of the Niger River by a Scotsman named Mungo Park in the late 1700s. In actuality, the book follows the parallel lives of the fictional "Ned Rise", a Dickensian sort of sleazebag and smalltime thief, and Mungo Park, a renaissance man of sorts whose travels and yearnings take him back and forth from Africa to Europe more regularly than his family wishes. The book, arranged in blocks of flashbacks and essays rather than formal chapters, is sprinkled with all of the other quirky historical events that occurred at the time of this story. Boyle, whose short fictions I have also enjoyed in The New Yorker, tells a story that reaches all of the senses, and his books are a mess of smells, tastes, sights, and sounds, not to mention an open door on the raw sexual and animal side of humankind. Like Roahl Dahl (author of such children's stories as Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach), Boyle's protagonists always seem to end up where and how they should, the bastard always seems to get what he deserves... which is rich and satisfying for as emotional a reader as I am. i always have 3-4 copies on my shelves to give out to friends who haven't read it.