Setting a novel on a Mediterranean island is an easy to way to attract the attention of travelers.
Peter Nichols, a sailor himself, makes the most of the Mediterranean island setting in The Rocks. Mallorca comes alive in his prose as a place where people “can leave the world outside.” The olive and lemon groves, the bougainvillea, the sunshine, the sea, even the changes in the air that carry the comings and goings of seasons, define Mallorca and account for its exotic magnetism. Seen through the eyes of one character, an English tourist, the island is a “Cézanney landscape” that becomes his own Shangri-La.
For travelers, the draw is The Rocks itself, or Villa Los Roques, the seaside resort owned and operated by one of Nichols’ two protagonists. Lulu Davenport. The Rocks drew Lulu to Mallorca nearly six decades before the book begins and remains the driving force in her life in the decades since. Lulu’s one-time husband, Gerald Rutledge, a sailor and writer with a Homer obsession, first landed on Mallorca to confirm his belief that an island so far west could not have been part of Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca. Their mysterious short-lived marriage drives the plot as Nichols draws his characters back through the decades, from 2005 to 1995, 1983, 1970, 1966, 1956, 1951 and, finally, 1948 to reveal the event that set everything in motion.
I wrote about The Rocks for Paste Magazine and fully recommend the book. The vivid island setting holds a tragedy and fascinating narrative about our inability to choose, or even to predict, when and how those life-altering events will strike, like storms on an open sea.