The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Mallorca_map

    One married couple, on the rocks.  Check.

    One disaffected, about-to-leave-for-college, recently-Facebook-traumatized teenage daughter.  Check.

    One selfish adult son and his much older girlfriend.  Check.

    One gay couple awaiting news of an adoption.  Check.

   Add in the exotic locale of Mallorca, a Spanish tutor both mom and daughter have the hots for, a retired Spanish tennis stud and lots of gorgeous food and descriptions and you have The Vacationers by Emma Straub, who appears to be all of 12 years old.

 jpbook-master180photo by Jennifer Bastien

    Ms. Straub has quite the nice website, incidentally, on which she uses some language that is definitely not that of a 12 year old.  http://www.emmastraub.net

   Amidst the romantic comedy elements of vacation-location-vocation, Straub (daughter of horror novelist Peter Straub) weaves a recurring thread of infidelity.  Jim, one half of the parental married couple, has recently admitted an affair with a 23 year old assistant at his magazine for which Jim’s job was terminated.  Franny, his wife, is furious.  Mostly silently, but occasionally vehemently.  Franny cooks, fusses, intrudes into her Charles, her gay best friend’s marriage to Lawrence, aggravates her daughter and torments her son’s girlfriend.vacationers

    The Vacationers is one of those books that I had a very tough time finding a character to like.  Of them all, I liked Jim, Charles and Lawrence the best I suppose although I don’t think that is the author’s intention.  The teenage daughter Sylvia was whiny and attitudinal as a whole.  The adult son and his girlfriend were narcissistic body-building freaks.  Franny was the Barefoot Contessa gone mad.

    But one thing Emma Straub does very, very well is add food, music and flavor to her book.  The Vacationers is an excellent book club choice.  It’s an easy but fun read.  It has lots of issues to discuss:  infidelity, kids going to college, older women-younger men.  And the food options are wonderful.

MENU

   Spain is the land of tapas and every time the group goes out to eat, Straub describes beautiful Spanish food.  An “overflowing plate of blistered green peppers covered with wide flakes of salt, touted pieces of bread with dollops of whipped cod, grilled octopus on a stick.  . . . Albondigas, little meatballs swimming in tomato sauce; patatas bravas, fried potatoes with a ribbon of cream run back and forth over the top, pa amb oli, the Mallorcan answer to Italy’s bruschetta.”  Ensaimadas, a sort of flaky pastry with sugar, makes several appearances.

  Back at their borrowed vacation house, complete with pool, Franny whips up group servings of pancakes with blueberries, roasted chicken with asparagus, fish with couscous, guacamole, pies, bread.  The choices are myriad.

 I would roast a chicken, serve it with asparagus with vinaigrette and try to make ensaimadas.  Photo courtesy of http://www.sky-blue-mallorca.com.  Here’s a recipe link:  http://spanishfood.about.com/od/dessertssweets/r/Mallorcan-Spiral-Pastry-Recipe-Ensaimada-Mallorquina.htm.

ensaimada-for-blog-400-3-300x225

MUSIC

   Ms. Straub happily includes many specific musical references in The Vacationers.  Elton John, Maroon Five’s Hands All Over, Enrique Iglesias’ Euphoria c.d., and native Mallorcan Tomeu Penya.  She also mentioned One Direction, but don’t get me started.

MOVIE CASTING

   Sylvia:  Sarah Hyland, from Modern Family

   Joan, the Spanish tutor, Alex Gonzalez

Alex+Gonzalez+X+Men+First+Class+Photocall+7P6t8DzrM88l

   Franny:  Marcia Gay Harden

   Jim:  Sam Waterston

   Charles:  Bruce Willis

   Lawrence:  I don’t know.  I didn’t get enough of a feeling for Lawrence.  Someone likable, intellectual-looking, patient.

   Bobby:  Chris Pine

Enjoy!

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The Vacationers by Emma Straub

  1. Pingback: Summer Reads 2015 | daeandwrite

  2. Pingback: Falling: The Rocks by Peter Nichols | daeandwrite

  3. Pingback: Modern Lovers, Emma Straub | daeandwrite

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s