Lucy’s on assignment. The wild reclusive writer awaits her arrival in his Mallorcan home. She wants the story of his life. He wants her to become part of it.
Villa Rosa hides a dark secret. Beneath Deià’s sunny olive groves are the bodies of a generation. Spain’s unearthed shadow entwines with Lucy’s as her own skeletons start to rattle out of her closet. Will she uncover the truth before it’s too late, or replay the pattern of her childhood abuse?
‘Set in the small Spanish town of DeÌa and its beautiful Villa Rosa, Sarah Walton’s The Silk Pavilion weaves a compelling story around a young British woman and her controlling, narcissistic lover, Miguel Mateo Nadal. Using fact, fiction and the historical remnants of the Spanish Civil War, she succeeds in bringing us, with honesty and empathy, this vividly told story that reveals how the trauma inflicted in one’s childhood can distort the psyche, leading the individual into choosing, unconsciously, further abuse as an adult. Her novel reads like a thriller but is also very much a novel of one woman’s journey of self-discovery and survival. Contemporary, relevant and highly readable. A brave and important book.’ Grace Nichols, winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.
‘A strange, almost dream-like reading experience – a journalist lands in Mallorca but comes to fear that she is a prisoner of her own mind. Febrile and frequently disturbing, with a hint of Bluebeard to it, it put me in mind of Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky – that sense of someone who is lost but compelled to pursue the path as it materialises before them. It had me gripped right to the end.’ Mick Jackson, award-winning novelist and screenwriter
The Silk Pavilion starts with freelance writer Lucy arriving in Deia on the island of Mallorca to interview reclusive novelist Miguel Mateo Nadal. He is twenty-five years older than her (she’s thirty-five) and not remotely attractive. He also seems much older than his years. Yet for some reason, she is instantly attracted to him and seduced by his home – Villa Rosa – and his insatiable sexual appetite. Lucy is married, but has not had intimate relations with her husband for seven years. We never know why.
There’s a lot of psychology, sexual abuse, gaslighting and narcissistic behaviour in this book. Be warned there is a lot of sex, much of it distasteful – Miguel makes Lucy do things she doesn’t want to do, but makes her believe she wanted it. He lies all the time particularly about his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend Alessandra.
Lucy has vivid dreams about the famous psychologist Carl Jung and make the unconscious conscious becomes her mantra. There are references to Jung’s The Red Rider, one of the manifestations of his ‘shadow’. I’m not going to try to explain any of this as it’s too complicated in a short review. When she goes into therapy, this is explained in detail.
There are also constant references to the sugar whores, who offered sex to soldiers in exchange for sugar during the Spanish Civil War. Their husbands had been captured and pushed off a cliff. It was war but the rape and murder were not excusable. They never are.
So what did I think? As someone who was never subjected to the kind of abuse Lucy suffered as a child, I find it hard to relate to her behaviour. I have never understood (and I’m sure I am not alone in this) why anyone would escape one abuser and then run straight into a relationship with another one. However ‘this vividly told story reveals how the trauma inflicted in one’s childhood can distort the psyche, leading the individual into choosing, unconsciously, further abuse as an adult.‘ Lucy’s husband was just too nice and ‘safe’ and she seeks something masochistic to give her that excitement. But the longer she stays in her toxic relationship with Miguel, the more she disappears and loses her sense of self.
This book is beautifully written with evocative prose and poetic language. I read it very quickly – I couldn’t put it down, but it still made me angry. I wanted to scream at her ‘GET OUT. GO AND NEVER COME BACK’. And Miguel is vile, truly a monster and mean with it.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
The pandemic restricted Sarah Walton to the Sussex Downs, but she is restless for encounters around the world. A digital pioneer in California in the .com era, she remains a leading figure in digital innovation and corporate storytelling. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and lectures on Hull University’s Online MA Creative Writing. Sarah also teaches her Soul Writing method, that combines meditation, free-writing and creative writing skills.