Book Club Discussion: The Rocks

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Rocks, by Peter Nichols. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. The Rocks is a novel that experiments with the chronology of storytelling, unfurling backward through time. What did you think about the way that time was handled in the narrative? Did it affect the way you related to the story and characters? Did it make the story feel more—or less—propulsive?

When I first started reading and noticed the dates at the beginnings of the sections, I thought that the story was going to jump back and forth between past and present. It actually took me a long time to realize the narrative was only moving backwards. It was an interesting way to read the story, because you had substantial insight into the outcomes of earlier events based on the characters relationships in the chapters set later in time at the beginning of the book. In a way this kind of ruined the momentum of the story for me, I felt like nothing major was really happening throughout the book and the chapters later in the book just filled in gaps set up at the beginning.

2. How did you interpret the ending with Luc and Aegina? Was it clear or ambiguous? Light or dark? How did you feel about the author’s decisions there?

I thought the ending between Luc and Aegina was wholly positive and fairly clear. Maybe I missed something, but I am not sure what about the end could be considered dark. It was interesting that they were unable to connect until the death of their parents, which in part, seemed to somewhat unconsciously hold them back throughout the book. I am glad that they seem like they are going to reconcile. It was sad to watch them spend their whole lives not really speaking due to a few miscommunications when they were young.

3. From the beginning of the book we understand that there is a secret at the foundation of Lulu and Gerald’s split, and that it may be based on a tragic misunderstanding. The book then spirals backward through time to get to that past secret. Were you surprised when you found out the truth? Was it what you expected? Were you satisfied?

Surprised, because I thought that the event that split up Gerald and Lulu was going to be much more serious. I was also expecting Gerald to be more at fault then he turned out to be. It seemed ridiculous to me that Lulu would think Gerald would leave her behind without a good reason, and I had trouble believing that she wouldn’t give him a chance to explain what happened. The whole thing, while certainly traumatic for Lulu, was a ridiculous miscommunication between the couple and was completely unsatisfying.

4. Consider the parallel relationships between Aegina and Luc, Lulu and Gerald. How are these two relationships similar, and how they are different? To what degree is Aegina and Luc’s relationship shaped by the dynamic between their parents?

As I mentioned in my answer to the earlier question, it is interesting that Luc and Aegina are unable to begin to reconcile until their parents have died. Similar to their parents, their relationship falls apart after a miscommunication in Morocco. Aegina does not give Luc a chance to explain and they break ties. I would argue that Luc’s transgression (sleeping with the German woman) was more serious than the what occurred between Lulu and Gerald, which was simply miscommunication. In both instances it seems the women are able to move on fairly easily, while the men pine and are unable to get over their lost loves.

Share your comments below!

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