Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Review: "The Rocks" by Peter Nichols

The Rocks begins with a confrontation. Lulu and Gerald were married for a very brief time in 1948. And although both have lived on the island of Mallorca for years, Lulu in particular goes out of her way to avoid Gerald at every turn. Yet when the two run into each other nearly 60 years later, the anger, hurt, and resentment is still tremendously intense, leading to a tragedy.

What happened on Lulu and Gerald's honeymoon all of those years ago that could still generate so much hurt and animosity? How has what transpired shaped their lives and their other relationships, yet allowed them to (reasonably) peacefully coexist on the same island?

The Rocks is a story told in reverse. It starts in 2005 with the confrontation, and travels back, a decade or so at a time, until that fateful day in 1948. With each section you see how Lulu and Gerald's lives progressed, their happy moments and their tragedies, and how their lives intersected again with the Romeo and Juliet-like relationship of their children, Lulu's son Luc, and Gerald's son Aegina, which, too, ends abruptly. Their stories are full of adventure, hope, anger, loneliness, and a love of Mallorca and those they care about.

I'll admit that what first attracted me to this book was that the cover reminded of Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, which I loved unabashedly (despite a very different setting than Mallorca). I enjoyed this book and in many ways liked its narrative structure, although it got to the point toward the end of the book where I just wanted to know what happened back in 1948. Peter Nichols is a talented writer, and I could just visualize Mallorca's beauty so many times throughout the book, and he also infused his story with a lot of emotion.

I thought the book moved really slowly at times, and yet at times I wanted more explanation of what happened with the characters at a particular juncture of the story. And while I found the characters fascinating, Lulu's behavior throughout the book really irked me, until I realized why she was the way she was.

I would recommend you read this book while you're on vacation somewhere sunny and beautiful, because this is a book that deserves a sun-drenched setting. It's well written and compelling, and I think it would make a really interesting movie.

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