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Deià holiday reading: some humble suggestionsJuly 20, 2018

You may be reclining in the hollow of a boulder lined with a towel down at Cala Deià. You could be outside Sa Font Fresca with coffee and a croissant. Or you might be at the far end of Sa Fonda terrace in the shade sipping an ice-cold drink from time to time.

Perhaps you’re by the pool of an exquisite rented villa, pausing occasionally to look up and admire your view of the mountains and the ocean.

The book in your hand might have pages stained with orange juice, wine or suntan lotion. It could be swollen to twice its normal size because it’s been dropped into the ocean or the pool. You might be reading on a smart, sleek Kindle.

For many of us, diving deep into a good book or splashing in the shallows of pageturner is one of the best parts of spending time in Deià. With this in mind, I’ve made a Deià holiday reading list you might like to dip into.

The White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon Gough

Simon Gough

Robert Graves was Simon’s ‘Grand-Uncle’. Set mostly in the 1950s and early 60s, the book is an evocative portrait of Graves, his wife Beryl, the family and the cast of characters gathered around them. Graves’s muse Margot Callas is portrayed as an especially bewitching mix of enchantress and free-spirited young woman.

I return to this book again and again because it captures the occasionally dark and feverish mood of Deià in summer. While I would imagine Simon was creative with the book’s raw material, it feels like an accurate portrait of Graves and those strange but incredibly romantic times in Deià.

The White Goddess is addictive Deià holiday reading and hard to put down. Read my interview with Simon here.

Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca by Tomás Graves

Tomás, a musician, writer and environmentalist, is the son of Robert Graves. He lived in Deià for many years before retreating to the centre of the island. Occasionally, he can be seen playing bass in the much-loved Pa Amb Oli Band or as half of the Tomás con Gas duo.

Tuning Up at Dawn is a gentle memoir of a life lived playing music but it’s also a wonderful way of obliquely absorbing a social and cultural history of Mallorca. Tomás doesn’t go into an enormous amount of detail about his father but Graves is a presence in the book. Being his father’s son and growing up in Deià brought Tomás into the orbit of a whole array of fascinating characters.

Tuning Up at Dawn is gently enlightening Deià holiday reading. Read my interview with Tomás here.

Naked Before the World: A Lovely Pornographic Love Story by Luke Rhinehart

I don’t think even Luke would claim Naked Before the World to be a masterpiece. He’ll be remembered for The Dice Man, written for the most part in Deià in the early 1970s.

But, if you’re at all interested in the history of Deià, and would like an easy, always entertaining and occasionally very funny Deià holiday read, I’d recommend Naked.

I wasn’t there but, for me, the book feels like it vividly captures one aspect of the craziness of the late 1960s and 70s in Deià when, as one of the mantras of that age went, ‘nothing is true, everything is permitted’.

Naked is slight but engaging Deià holiday reading. Read my interview with Luke here.

Savage Grace: The True Story of Fatal Relations in a Rich and Famous American Family by Natalie Robbins and Stephen ML Aronson

You might be familiar with this story of glamour, madness, incest and matricide from the movie starring Julianne Moore. It doesn’t do the book or story justice.

At its heart is the Baekeland family, fabulously rich from Leo Baekeland’s invention of Bakelite, the forerunner of plastic. Idle and with bohemian pretensions, Leo’s grandson Brooks, his wife Barbara and their son Tony drifted around the world, settling briefly where the rich, artistic and ‘interesting’ people gathered.

 

For many of us, diving deep into a good book or splashing in the shallows of pageturner is one of the best parts of spending time in Deià.

One of these places was Deià in the early 1970s.

Tony, according to Barbara, was judged to be a good poet by Graves. He was also insane and made things worse by experimenting with drugs. This was to have disastrous consequences.

Savage Grace is odd but gripping Deià holiday reading. Read my brief account of the Baekeland story here.

The High Road by Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien

I have no idea how she came to be in Deià but I do believe that Edna O’Brien stayed at Belmond La Residencia while she was writing this book, first published in 1988.

The High Road has the same feverish, slightly mad, atmosphere of Simon’s The White Goddess – as does Helen Walsh’s The Lemon Grove, set in Deià and reviewed by me here. It’s interesting how these very different books about the village are tonally so similar. Must be something in the air.

I’m about to read The High Road for a second time. The book is a satisfying example of what us admirers of O’Brien’s writing expect from her. As the Sunday Times wrote on the book’s publication, ‘She mixes pain and comedy to thrilling effect’.

It’s also great fun attempting to match the book’s portrayal of Deià to one’s own picture of the village.

Incidentally, when I discovered The High Road, I wrote to her agent, the legendary Ed Victor, asking if she would donate a signed copy to the Deià library, the Juan Graves Biblioteca. I was mightily surprised when Victor wrote back. He did so because he’d spent ‘many happy days (not to mention nights!) in Deia in the 60s and 70s’ and was happy to pass on my request.

Unfortunately, O’Brien’s response was to thank me for asking but ‘it is a book of hers she would prefer to forget and rather not have in the Deià library’.

I can’t believe this is because she thinks it’s a bad book. Perhaps something happened to sour her on the village. If anyone can enlighten me, feel free to do so.

The High Road is satisfyingly peculiar Deià holiday reading.

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