The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Review by M (Adult Fiction)
The Post family goes on holiday to Mallorca: Manhattan-living husband Jim and wife Franny take their two grown children, a best friend, and partners to an out-of-the-way villa. It was supposed to be a thirty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration but a ‘discovered workplace affair’ has thrown a couple of spokes in the wheel.
This is very much not the sort of novel that I would actively pick up to read (though the cover is quite catching!) and in many ways the characters are all many worlds away from my life (no spoons from Tiffanys here and my family is the most functional ever – of course!). But it was here so I gave it a go. I read it quickly and it is funny, in that ‘sideways’ sort of way. It also made me want to go on holiday, possibly even to Mallorca, which is not a transatlantic flight away for me.
The two week holiday, or vacation, is the setting for the plot from beginning to end, and most of it takes place in a heavenly sounding villa. Of course, like all middle class extended 'families', this one has its dysfunctions and all of the characters and couples and friends have their ‘issues’ and their ‘secrets’, from body-building powershakes to gay adoption and 'class values' (and not forgetting ‘the affair'). While there is something to dislike about most of the characters (except Lawrence, and Carmen gets a rough deal, in my opinion) there is also plenty to like, and the bossy, people-feeding matriarch, who is Franny, is actually a delight.
The Vacationers is a novel that is very much about, though not too deeply, the characters and their relationships (which is very much the sort of novel that I like to read). A funny and feelgood-but-not-too good-cos-that-would-be-uncool beach read.
Publication details: Picador, 5th June 2014, London, paperbackThis copy: for review from the publisher