I’ll own up to it: I haven’t finished The Vacationers yet. I’m a little bit more than halfway through, and though I could probably have held off posting about it until I’d actually read the whole thing, I’ve just spent the better part of today lying in my backyard getting sunburned and savoring this book. It fits just so perfectly into this month’s theme that I just can’t help myself. If something truly horrifying and unexpected happens in the second half that undermines everything I write here, I’ll come back and edit the post. But somehow I’m not worried.
The Vacationers is one of those novels where a group of people end up spending a lot of time together in a relatively small space. In this case, the people are the Post family (and various close friends and significant others) and the space is a beautiful house on the beautiful island of Mallorca. As you can probably imagine, the crux of the book is in the varied personalities and the messy way they tangle with one another within the tight confines of the vacation, and there’s no question that Emma Straub’s pitch perfect characterization and dialogue are what makes this such a good book. But the setting is what makes it so savorable:
“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. Though the day was hot, the mugginess of New York City was gone, replaced by unfiltered sunshine and a breeze that promised you’d never be too warm for long. Mallorca was summer done right, hot enough to swim but not so warm that your clothing stuck to your back.”
The Vacationers is full of delicious bits like that. It’s drenched in sun and pool water and olive oil, and it’ll make you wish you were, too. Though maybe not literally.