The Lemon Grove

One hot summer. One week in a villa on the outskirts of Deia, a village nestling in the rugged, mountainous west coast of the island of Mallorca. One family for whom the carefully laid jigsaw of life is about to be broken.

Jenn and her husband Greg holiday each year in Deia, enjoying languorous afternoons by the pool. But this year the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Emma, Jenn's stepdaughter, and her boyfriend Nathan. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by the notion of Nathan's youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that put lives and relationships in jeopardy, and a taut narrative which percolates with enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down.

Sultry, spare and brilliantly paced, THE LEMON GROVE is a meditation on female desire, the variations of marriage, and the politics of raising other people's children. It is the work of a writer acutely alive to the complex workings of the human heart.

The author on The Lemon Grove

I first set eyes on Deia in the middle of an unusually hot May, some eleven years ago. I’d approached the village from the Valdemossa road, and I can remember gasping then pulling over to take in the view, as the hairpin bend curved round to reveal the row of storied casitas wedged into the hillside. I was instantly seduced by the artsy village and its bohemian expats, and the wild, dramatic mountains that surrounded it. I returned to Deia time and time again after that: in January when snow could be seen on the mountain paths; in February when it was warm enough to trek those paths in shorts; in May when the sea was cold enough to immobilize my limbs; and in July when it rained for seven days. For years I have longed to capture and fictionalise the inherent tension of the island’s weather and its landscape: the wild storms that realign its coastal paths each year; the languid summers on which its tourist industry is built; the solid permanence of the mountains; and the slow-drip gentrification of its rural communities.

The Lemon Grove is a love letter to the West coast of Mallorca and its slowly evolving face, but it is also a meditation on female desire, a marriage over time, and the gendered complexion of inter-generational relationships. The Holiday Setting offered up new possibilities and freedoms for me as a writer, and for my characters too. In The Lemon Grove, the much anticipated 'summer holiday' takes place over ten days in a luxury villa that my fictive family can barely afford. For all of my characters, the holiday represents escape; postponement; a temporary suspension of reality; but for my anti-heroine, Jenn, it offers the illusion of freedom. I doubt, for example, that Jenn would have behaved so badly if she were back at home in Didsbury. She may well have experienced a similar attraction to her step-daughter’s boyfriend - the enigmatic and beautiful Nathan - yet it would have been held in check by the social and moral boundaries that govern her everyday life. And yet the ‘holiday setting’ alone doesn’t justify her behaviour. Implicit in The Lemon Grove is a negation of the received wisdom on female desire that holds it as passive, emotionally rather than physically driven, and less prone to infidelity than men’s. Jenn proves that female desire is every bit as driven, animalistic and irrational as the types of male desire that have dominated our fictional landscape for centuries.

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© 2023 Helen Walsh