I have always thought the perfect setting can make a story irresistible.
And there are few places more irresistible than the small island that serves as the setting of one of my favorite escapist reads, THE ROCKS, by Peter Nichols. THE ROCKS is a familial drama. It is also very much a love letter to the gorgeous island on which it resides.
THE ROCKS tells the story of former lovers, who, despite living on the small island, haven’t spoken since their romance went awry more than 60 years before. Nichols tells their story in reverse, weaving a page-turning tale that not only unravels the mystery of what tore his lovers apart but what they still hold over each other all these decades later. It is riveting storytelling about family and romantic love, which captures you right from the glorious opening—where you fall in love with Nichols’s wonderful characters.
And, as much as this page-turner will reverberate with readers, perhaps the real joy of THE ROCKS is its setting—which Nichols transports you to right from page one, where we meet our heroine, as she runs into her former husband at the market. They’ve avoided running into each other for decades by keeping different schedules, but her recent stroke changed her patterns, and so they are about to meet face to face—which neither is prepared for. And, without giving too much away, it is going to be quite an eventful encounter between two people who once loved each other a great deal. “After a day of cloudbursts, the clouds departed, as if they’d been waiting for an improvement in the weather themselves . . .”
Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want to pour a nice glass of wine and spend a little time seeing what happens next?
But what really sets Nichols apart is the way he utilizes the island to illuminate the story itself: this sun-kissed, romance-drenched island in the Mediterranean—where, even decades later, its inhabitants struggle with their broken hearts and twisted family obligations and hope of beginning anew. This island of thwarted romance and loving families, great wine and fresh baskets of bread, ocean breezes swaying in the distance.
With Nichols’s choice of setting, he takes us to a place removed from reality, which somehow makes his characters’ reality all the richer. The island enhances his story’s plight, gracefully revealing a meditation on home and running away and refusing to let go and learning to love again and rediscovering yourself, all wrapped into one.
People say that novels are a great way to spend a cozy day at home. THE ROCKS is a novel that will take you to a different world, to a place that you’ll want to visit and revisit. And while a plane ticket will set you back a great deal, you can return to the first page for free, and start the ride all over again.
I’m pretty sure, that after you finish reading, it’s the first thing you’ll want to do.