A Welsh construction worker risks his life for love when he falls in with a band of privileged do-gooders on a mission to war-torn Bosnia circa 1994.
Debut novelist Armstrong is a star in Britain for writing Peep Show and In The Loop. He demonstrates his dizzying talent for comedy here in a clever if deeply cynical satire about love, war, and disappointment. Our entry into this adventure is Andrew, a working-class bloke just coming off a long, bad relationship. By accident, he falls in with Penny, the idealistic daughter of wealthy liberals, who declares her plans: “Bob is driving the minibus and we’re going to Bosnia to stop that war.” This doesn’t mean that Penny is solely naïve. “Everyone’s corrupted by money, Andrew,” Penny says. “But you have to be careful of the rich, because they know exactly how fucking nice it is.” Soon Andrew is on the road with Penny; the aforementioned Onomatopoeic Bob; Shannon and Sara, a pair of combative lesbians; and Penny’s junkie brother, Von, who happens to be carrying a rock-band–worthy parcel of drugs. Half the book is a very funny road trip through the back alleys of Europe as Penny writes her terrible “peace play” and Andrew vies for her affections. Armstrong ratchets up the venom as they push further into the war zone and Andrew’s mates have to reconsider their moral imperatives in the presences of mercenaries, fixers, snipers, and heavy artillery. “Because if by some dash across a checkpoint I could get three thousand, or even just three hundred, men, women and children to safety, if I could shield the last infantryman as he planted the final flag of multi-ethnic victory, then yes…I would make the sacrifice,” Andrew admits. “But getting my throat shot out by a sniper on my way to see The Three Amigos badly dubbed at an open-air screening? That wasn’t really for me.”
A very funny British road comedy laced with ecstasy both real and imagined.