Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: The Rocks

Summary: Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

Peter Nichols writes with a pervading, soulful wisdom and self-knowing humor, and captures perfectly this world of glamorous, complicated, misbehaving types with all their sophisticated flaws and genuine longing. The result is a bittersweet, intelligent, and romantic novel about how powerful the perceived truth can be—as a bond, and as a barrier—even if it’s not really the whole story; and how one misunderstanding can echo irreparably through decades. -- Riverhead

I have had THE ROCKS by Peter Nichols sitting in my finished book pile for an embarrassingly long time. I really enjoyed the book and have absolutely no idea why I didn't write a review right away. Having admitted all of that, I was happy to see that the book was released in paperback this week. Given the timing, I figured it was about time that I shared my thoughts with you.

At its heart, THE ROCKS is a love story (and a mystery) that takes place on the island of Mallorca between two expatriates, Lulu and Gerald, that had a falling out over 60 years ago and never spoke again. Despite having once been married and living on a small resort island, these two 80 year olds have managed to stay away from each other until one day when they have a confrontation. Both Lulu and Gerald end up falling from the rocks to their deaths and their families are left to figure things out.

The novel then works its way backwards, era by era, from the present day to the beginning of their romance providing readers with the background of their stories and an explanation of what happened to this couple over 60 years ago. By telling the story in the way, the reader gets to experience the trickle down effects of their disagreement like how it affected their children... and their romance as well as their grandchildren.

I loved THE ROCKS and thought both the writing and the story were outstanding. I was especially impressed with how the author chose to tell the story. I loved the premise of starting the novel out with two 80 somethings talking after six decades and then falling to their death. It was shocking, and at the same time, it piqued my interest in what could have happened for them to deliberately stay away from that long a period of time.

I also thought it was brilliant how the author reflected the fall out from Lulu's and Gerald's relationship in the lives of their (unrelated) children Luc and Aegina. Given the circumstances surrounding their parents, these two had a Romeo and Juliet type of romance. I found their interactions and relationship to be almost as interesting as the mystery surrounding LuLu and Gerald.

In addition, there are a few interesting side stories in the novels about the guests who stay at the beautiful Mediterranean resort called The Rocks. These characters were an interesting crew to say the least, many of them being artists and writers; and their lives provided a great deal of entertainment for readers.

I think THE ROCKS would make an excellent book club pick. You could talk about these characters for hours! There is a reading guide available with eight thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, love, grief, romance, secrets, anger, grudges, misunderstandings, expat culture, traditions, and more. In addition, it would be interesting to talk about the author's writing decisions as well as his background and how he explored cultural norms in the novel.

I loved THE ROCKS and think it would be a great addition to your summer reading list!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I love it when a story's told that way!

Kate Unger said...

Sounds interesting. My husband and I went on our honeymoon in the Mediterranean, so I am intrigued by the location.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I have this one on my bookshelf now and have not yet read it. It's going in the TBR Pile now.