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Book set in Mallorca (a fortnight in PigPen*)

5th June 2014

The Vacationers by Emma Straub: book set in Mallorca.

“Mallorca was a layer cake – the gnarled olive trees and spiky palms, the green-gray mountains, the chalky stone walls along either side of the road, the cloudless pale blue sky overhead… Mallorca was summer done right, hot enough to swim but not so warm that your clothing stuck to your back.”

The New York Times says: “For those unable to jet off to a Spanish island this summer, reading “The Vacationers” may be the next-best thing”. (click here for the full article).

IMG_1626Two weeks off the world with friends and family, in a villa at the foot of the Tramuntana Mountains in Mallorca. A perfect scenario for one family and their hangers-on to explore relationship dynamics and work out ways of co-existing. And enjoy the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca.

This is to all intents and purposes an eagerly awaited break, for the Post family: for Franny, husband Jim, daughter Sylvia and son Bobby (plus girlfriend), together with Charles, Franny’s best male friend and his partner Lawrence.

This is the cast of diverse characters who will entertain you in this cleverly constructed novel that brings the minutiae of interconnecting relationships to life.

Franny is the main character, Mum, friend, and wife, who is struggling with a sidestep that her husband Jim has taken, and which has cost him his job. She herself travels the world writing about food, and food is her way of bringing everyone together. She is the nurturing stereotype of Motherhood; or is she? There is a sense that she actually uses food as leverage and a way of controlling those around her, and also as a way of submerging difficulties and contretemps. And, she is text-book passive aggressive, which, as is usual with people who have this trait, takes everyone rather unaware. There is a wonderfully observed interchange with Carmen, Bobby’s girlfriend, who happens to be really into mixing health drinks (she is after all a fitness fanatic). Franny says that she too had a very short spell of mixing health drinks (‘Franny mimed the mixing of the powders, a mad-scientist-gone-bodybuilder’) and goes on to say she did it for a cleanse “I lost four pounds and my sense of humour”. Ouch! Poor Carmen. Franny also has a volley of snide asides, especially honed for Gemma who owns the house.

Overall, there are astute little observations, little glimpses of quirky behaviour, and delightful and wry dialogue which bowls along at just the right pace. There are, too, interesting musings on the nature of family: families are “nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone only wanting the best”. It is indeed a glorious novel of marriage, friendship, secrets, lies – and love. (And if there is one tiny niggle, it is that the time zones are out of sync – at breakfast in Mallorca Charles and Lawrence speak to the social worker who is arranging the adoption of their child over in the States. They just catch her before she goes home. Actually she would still be in bed as it would be just past midnight in America).

As for location, the author describes the group’s outings, from beaches, to Palma, along winding roads, and really evokes the views, the sounds and the smells. This book totally transported me back to several family holidays on the island. As Gemma says “Most Brits think Mallorca is for drunken teenagers….” …who are we to dispel that myth? There are wonderfully secluded, quiet and beautiful parts still tucked away, and far from the madding drunken crowds….

*Pigpen is what the group calls the locale in which they are staying, Puigpunyent

Tina for the TripFiction Team

We review another top novel set in Mallorca here (The Lemon Grove) and love to see you over on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over in Instagram too.

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