The BUZZ: Latest novel by the bestselling author of A Voyage of Madmen and Sea Change.
The GIST: Lulu and Gerald are British expats living on Mallorca. She is the gorgeous, magnetic proprietor of a beloved guest house, Los Roques, and he is the urbane steward of a small olive and lemon farm. They were married for one passionate week, honeymooning aboard his sailboat. While exploring Odysseus’s route in the Mediterranean, something tragic occurred, irrevocably destroying their union. They both remained on Mallorca afterwards, remarrying other spouses, having children, but barely speaking to one another until another final, tragic incident in their old age. The story works backwards to uncover the mystery between them. Her son, Luc, and his daughter, Aegina, suffer a similar destiny of mishap and turmoil in their relationship.
The WRITING: Colorful and clever. It took me awhile to get into this book, as the zigzagging timeline was jarring. But I was hooked by the mystery of what could have gone so terribly wrong between two newlyweds that they would live on the same small island and never speak to one another. Their lives seem to have turned out orderly enough, with other partners and dear friends, and abiding roots in a stunning backdrop. The character development is strong throughout, as we meet Lulu and Gerald first in their old age, and then get to know them in young adulthood. Their children are equally intriguing. The other characters who summer at The Rocks (some of them grotesque) are richly detailed, along with vibrant descriptions of island life, and explorations of Paris, Morocco, and Italian ports. Themes of misunderstanding, loss and fumbled destiny are poignant viewed from the wide lens of time. The rocks, hidden below the water’s surface, or exposed on the cliffside, can shipwreck us, or sustain us. For these characters, both instances are true.
BUY OR BORROW: Borrow. This isn’t the light beach read I was expecting from reviews – some work is required to slog through the timeline and tragedy. The female characters are not authentic, but their resilience is compelling.
“They had seemingly excised each other, like an amputation. But now she could feel the phantom limb; it still itched or stung but it felt like a natural part of her. In its place, Fergus was some sort of efficient prosthesis.”