Talking Location With author Charlotte Rixon – Newcastle
Novel set in Andalusia (heat and tension…)
24th July 2017
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach, novel set in Andalusia.
Anna and Michael have been renovating a wonderful finca (or should it be a cortijo?) up in the mountains behind the Costa del Sol, but the spark between them has dwindled. This becomes all too evident to both of them when Michael’s old friends Farah and Kurt come to stay, a priggish couple from his Oxbridge days. They leave and so does Michael. Where does Anna go from here, penniless and rootless, all her own money tied up in their property?
Anna decamps to derided Marea, a town possibly inspired by Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol, and sets herself up in a flat above the bar she has bought, from where she observes the comings and goings of the British; and El Tio, a down and out local who has a history linked to buried treasure in the sea. She is a sad soul, who resorts to draining the alcohol she could be serving to her customers. Her loneliness isn’t even expunged by her affair with Tommy, a married man who delights in his clandestine relationship with her.
Her financial woes seem to diminish, however, when Simón Ruiz offers to rent her finca in the hills, but with an explicit warning that she should not trespass on her own property whilst his tenants are ensconced – Anna was expecting him to be residing there, perhaps with his family. Soon, however, there are murmurings amongst the locals of illicit activity, carried out by suspected illegals, up on her property.
A dead body of an African male washes up on the beach, which gets Anna’s mind racing, and the author has a real talent for building a sense of pathos, the story prickles with heat and tension, it is robustly slow burning and gritty until about 2/3rds of the way through. At this point Anna willingly embroils herself in dangerous situations, and the precision tension which the author has so skilfully built up, is broken. As a single woman would you really tackle potential traffickers, or drug smugglers, or any group of men with a dangerous agenda when you have specifically been warned off? No, part of the calculation would be that you wouldn’t survive. But (spoiler alert) survive she does.
The anticipation of climbing up a roller coast ride as the narrative progresses is very real, anticipating a heart stopping plummet, which simply doesn’t happen. It feels like the author has bottled out of creating a punchy ending, and the story coasts to anti climactic denouement. It meanders around and loses its taut construction.
Having said that, I actually read the novel avidly, the author clearly has a real talent for writing, which flows deep in her family blood. In the book, she deftly tackles the economic slump of 2008 onwards, highlights issues around migrant workers with aplomb and casts an acute eye over the British assimilating into their Spanish homes. It is a meditation on loneliness, and how the British settle abroad. She also slots in a father-daughter relationship, which has been created largely to move the plot along, but which ultimately feels like a device rather than an integral part of the storyline.
The author’s Spain is hot and dusty and observed with care. The real Spain is still evident under the patina of the British urbanisation dwellers. In parts, it is a pretty sorry picture of all kinds of people just trying to get by. I very much look forward to seeing what this author produces next!
Tina for the TripFiction Team
The author is not active on Social Media at the time of writing.
We also bring together further top Summer 2017 reads set in SPAIN, plus some classics to take you on a literary wanderlust tour … and for our full database of books set in Spain, just click on this link!