Book Review: The Rocks – Peter Nichols

One of the biggest perks of working in a bookshop is that new books are strewn around the staff room and free for the taking. I picked up a paperback edition of this book during my lunch break and thought it sounded like a light beach read that I would save for my holiday in Ibiza and Formentera. The book is mainly set on the Balearic island of Mallorca which is just a boat ride away from where I was so it was perfect timing. I love reading books that are set in the places that I travel to as I think it brings the writing alive to be in the same atmosphere.

It is hard to categorise this novel as it has elements of travel writing, love story, mystery and a family saga all rolled into one. It follows the story of Lulu and Gerald, two octogenarian British expats on Mallorca who were at one time married. The book opens in 2005 with them bumping into each other at the supermarket after decades of avoiding each other. The great mystery of the book is why Lulu is still angry at Gerald 60 years after their divorce. The book works forward chronologically from 1948 when they first marry through several decades up to 2005. Intertwined with their story is also the unrequited love story of their respective children Luc, Lulu´s son with an American living in Paris, and Aegina, Gerald´s daughter with a local Mallorcan girl. Both romances have an inevitability and mystery surrounding them. Luc and Aegina´s story develops as the book goes on taking the reader to Marrakesh, London and Paris in the meantime.

The title, The Rocks, refers to the villa guest house that the eccentric and glamorous Lulu owns on Mallorca. It is a place of decadent glamour where the same ageing guests gather every summer. Most the novel revolves around what happens at The Rocks as it is a party hub for the eccentric expat characters. They are all very boho artistic characters which actually reminded me of some of the people I used to know when I lived in Barcelona, weather beaten old guys and girls who come from moneyed families and lived out their lives drinking countless g&t´s, travelling and sleeping with whoever came their way. In fact The Rocks has a distinct air of sexual allure surrounding it.

The Rocks is like a warm, sultry, mysterious older woman that sits you down and tells you her fascinating life story. Nichols, a hardened sailor like Gerald, has woven a tale of Mediterranean intrigue and family life. With echoes of Jess Walter´s Beautiful Ruins and Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann, it is a beach read with soul that will not disappoint.

This is the cover of the book I read. For some reason all the covers I found online are all different, they were probably updated by the publisher. I feel like  this cover is slightly misleading in that it looks like chicklit when it is way deeper than that.

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