By Peter Nichols
Peter Nichols offers up quite a clever premise: two intelligent people were married, briefly, after WWII, when their marriage blew up in mere days, and afterwards both lived on Mallorca, one hoping the other would understand the necessity of what had happened, the other angry, bitter, and closed to redemption or even discussion of what had transpired, even up to the moment they meet accidentally on a path in old age and plummet together into the ocean to their deaths (nothing revealed here, as this takes place in the first pages of the novel). You’re nodding that it must have been of monumental proportions. While pretty significant, you may find yourself a tad disappointed and rightly puzzled about why Gerald did not develop the film himself and show the photos to Lulu.
While uncovering the incident that separates Gerald and Lulu for a lifetime drives us forward and comprises the plot, Nichols weaves into his tale an interesting cast of characters, a beautiful playland location, a lifestyle many will find hedonistic, and a reverse telling that works well.
Primary among the characters are Aegina and Luc, who have known each other their entire lives and who are the children of Gerald and Lulu, respectively, by subsequent marriages. It’s not much of a revelation to say they have an itch for each other. Nichols has them dance around it for years. Aegina married Fergus (something of a piece of work) that had little to do with love. However, she does love her son, Chris. Chris, a teen, has an experience that would make minor headlines, if it ever got into a newspaper. Luc is a filmmaker, with a few independent movies to his credit, none of which have brought him the success he, or Lulu (a harpie on this), had hoped for. He’s spent his time with young actress wannabes who, as you might guess, can’t fill a hole in his life.
The title refers to a book Gerald has published. It recounts his sailing the Mediterranean, following the route taken by Odysseus and brings him a modest income and a modicum of notoriety. Like Odysseus, Gerald has been on a quest to return home; that is, to at least reconcile with Lulu. Unlike Odysseus, whose adventure takes ten years, Gerald spends a lifetime working his way back into Lulu’s arms, only to have it lead to their demise.
Nichols writes evocatively. A sailor himself, he brings the Mediterranean and Mallorca alive. He’s also adept at creating interesting, though not always likable, characters. So, while some will find the plotting wanting, most everybody will enjoy the local color. w/c