Based on a true story, The Invisible Mile tells the poignant story of five Australian and New Zealand cyclists who, in 1928, formed the first English-speaking team to ride in the Tour de France. They were gallant, under-resourced and badly outnumbered but taken deep to the heart by the French nation.
The audiobook describes in a wonderful poetic and visceral voice what it was like to ride in this race (the chaos, danger and rivalries); the extraordinary lengths to which the riders pushed themselves, suffering horrific injuries, riding through the night in pitch dark; and the ways they staved off the pain through camaraderie, through sexual conquest, through drink and through drugs (cocaine for energy, opium for pain).
Added to the team is the fictional narrator who is cycling towards his demons in a Northern France still scarred by the First World War. His brother was a fighter pilot damaged by his experiences in France, his sister has died and this self-imposed test of endurance is slowly and painfully bringing him to his final, invisible mile, where memory eventually comes to collide with the past.
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Doesn't go anywhere
The main character is riding the 1919 Tour de France and having an affair with someone, while pretending to be his older brother who was in France during the First World War. While the characters move across France the story doesn't really progress. It's frustrating and tedious, but I kept listening because the narrator is good and the book kept seeming like it was about to resolve into something better. But it didn't. The eventual surprise reveal is odd, rather than interesting. The random violence, which is perhaps meant to be a commentary on the war is unpleasant but not revelatory.
Also, the main character talks about meters and kilometers, but New Zealand did not become metric until 1976. I wonder what else the author got wrong.