cover image The Rocks

The Rocks

Peter Nichols. Riverhead, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-59463-331-7

Nichols (Voyage to the North Star) has conjured the perfect beach read: a romantic story set in a rich beach town on Mallorca called Cala Marsopa. Though you may not get sand between its easy-to-turn pages, you’ll feel as though you have. Lulu Davenport, a lithe and headstrong beauty, is the doyenne of Villa Los Roques, a resort dubbed The Rocks by the English expatriate layabouts who return annually each summer. The book opens in 2005, in Lulu’s “ninth decade,” when a surprise encounter with her estranged first husband, Gerald Rutledge, awakens “a flame of old anger.” Gerald gave up his sailing life and made a permanent home in Cala Marsopa following their brief marriage, though they have managed to avoid each other almost completely for nearly 60 years. Nichols crafts the story in reverse, moving back through time and revealing that even though these former lovers have had little contact, they have left deep imprints on each other. Meanwhile, another story of love, separation, and the “horrible, stunting gap between dream and desire and practicality” is revealed through the deeply intertwined lives of Lulu’s and Gerald’s respective children: Luc Franklin, the son of an American father and raised in Paris, himself a summer-only resident of The Rocks, and Aegina, the dark-eyed daughter of Gerald and a local. The two central stories engage the readers’ sympathies and emotions, while Nichols colors in the background with the indelible imagery of the wind-swept Mediterranean, and the louche exploits of the careless adults and the tanned teenagers who can slip effortlessly from English to Spanish to French, but have a harder time growing up beyond the endless summer. (May)