Book 4 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from January 2 - 8
The Rocks by Peter Nichols
Summary (via the book jacket)
Against the Mediterranean landscape of Mallorca's sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a dramatic argument. It is 2005, and Lulu and Gerald, octogenarians who haven't spoken for more than fifty years despite having once been married and still living within a few miles of each other, finally confront the secret of their past. Whatever unspoken catastrophic event drove them apart so suddenly and absolutely as honeymooners back in 1948 has cast a long shadow over their lives and the shape of their future families. But before the secret can be revealed and misunderstandings at long last untangled, an accident occurs. Master storyteller Peter Nichols hooks the reader with this mystery, then chases its resolution backward through time and two overlapping romances with writing that balances soulful wisdom, self-knowing humor, and a genuine sense of longing.
The heartbeat of both the community and the book is "The Rocks", the small hotel opened by Lulu in the 1950s that has become an ongoing house party for natives and expats of a certain breed. Peter Nichols finds the language that perfectly captures a rarefied group of louche and complicated characters, with all their endearing flaws, who drink, eat, dance, and misbehave beside the sea. As Lulu and Gerald's love story unfurls in deliberate reverse, another, sweeter love emerges in its shadows. The Romeo and Juliet-like story that rises from the younger generation has everything to do with the failure of the elders before them. The Rocks is a bittersweet, intelligent, and romantic novel about how powerfully the truth, or mistruth, can be perceived, and how a misunderstanding can echo irreparably through generations.
Well, this is embarrassing. When I saw a review of this book I thought the author was the actor from Ally McBeal and he was branching into a second career the way actors seem to do. But when I picked up the book and saw the author's photo I realized my mistake (the actor's name is Peter MacNicol...oops). That's the great thing about random reading though - I never know how the books will wind up in my hands but there they are. Now to get the actor's voice out of my head as I read and I'm ready for the book...
The beginning section of the book was compelling. There were so many emotions to absorb and so many underlying things unsaid in each interaction I had to take breaks to soak it all in. It painted a beautiful scene with lots of details.
Unfortunately, the format of the book going backward in time didn't work as well for me. The next section, about 1983, didn't grab me at all; I didn't want to read pages of Luc messing with a script and person we know isn't going anywhere. The section about 1970 was a little better because it explained some things and got back on pace but I had the same issues with this section as well. Plus I missed Charlie as we moved back before he was born; he was my favorite character.
This sentence summed up parenting in a nutshell for me; her son asked "What do you think?" and then "he looked at her. And she was supposed to be wise."
A Few Quotes from the Book
"But now he'd lived here for decades, most of that time alone, a kilometer from the woman who kept him here, and hardly seen her in all that time."
"The longer he'd known her, the more of a mystery she had become to him. Over the past year, he'd come to realize that he had almost entirely invented the person he'd fallen in love with."
"Ithaca the Marvelous Journey by Gerald Rutledge. Except it was hardly that, was it? Mostly a wretched, storm-tossed misery, full of wrong turns and monsters. And some very nasty females."