Interview with Rebecca Frayn about her new book Lost in Ibiza

Images above: Rebecca Frayn; Lost in Ibiza

Rebecca Frayn’s new book Lost in Ibiza puts its finger on the divide between the generations

Funnily enough, I had just finished reading Michael Frayn’s novel Spies, bought after a Q&A with him at the Chiswick Book Festival, when a copy of Rebecca Frayn’s new novel Lost in Ibiza plopped through the letterbox.

In both books, father and daughter manage to put their finger on a moment in time when the world is in crisis – in his case the Second World War, in hers the climate crisis – and capture the atmosphere of their own era, exploring how two generations deal with the catastrophe they face, and each other, as the world around them changes.

Rebecca is every bit as much the polymath as her father – he the novelist and playwright, she the novelist, documentary maker, screenwriter and climate activist.

READ ALSO: Interview with Rebecca Frayn about her film Misbehaviour (2020) with Keira Knightley and Jessie Buckley

Lost in Ibiza follows the journey of 21-year-old environmental activist Alice, to the Balearic island of hippies and hedonists to find William, a successful 50 year old capitalist, who she has only just discovered is her biological father.

She pitches up on the eve of his big birthday bash, much to the irritation of his wife, mother of his two small, legitimate children, as she is in the throes of organising truck-loads of Moroccan tents, rugs and assorted paraphernalia, including a camel and copious quantities of food and booze being laid out by the pool to amuse the hundreds of guests about the descend on their idyllic mountain villa.

The personal story is interesting, as is that of the Filipino couple who run the place, but she also manages to crystallise the dynamic between the Baby Boomer generation and Millennials – those who trashed the planet and those who are left to pick up the pieces – in a book that is both thought-provoking and at the same time a light and enjoyable read.

You have a feeling it will end badly, but she keeps you guessing how until the end.

Image above: Rebecca Frayn and family at their farmhouse in Ibiza

“I saw a Mediterranean pop of colour”

If it feels as if the author knows Ibiza well, describing with the ease of familiarity the hinterland with its flora and fauna and its distinct groups of inhabitants – the Ibicencos, the new age hippies and the rich incomers, it’s because she does.

Rebecca bought a 500 year old farmhouse in the north of the island a few years ago, which she has restored with her architect son Finn and now runs as an ecological farm, selling produce at the farm shop. She talked to The Chiswick Calendar about it when she was back at their family home in Chiswick.

“I was walking along Chiswick High Rd 23 years ago, heavily pregnant with my daughter. I had put my back out, so I was walking very slowly, and I saw a Mediterranean pop of colour in an estate agent’s window.”

The pop of colour was a picture of a little house in the north of Ibiza. The price was £140,000.

“Even 23 years ago that wouldn’t have bought a garage in Chiswick. It was a very sweet little house with a 180-degree view of the sea and a 180-degree view of the valley. A couple from Chiswick owned it, and it was considered too far from the airport for anyone to want it. They couldn’t sell it in Ibiza, so they decided to try and sell it here.”

Image above: Countryside of northern Ibiza

“We fell deeply in love with the island”

Rebecca and her husband did their sums and thought they could manage it. Only just about able to fly, because she was so pregnant, she went out to see it with him and they fell in love with the place.

“I think all the stress of it led me to go into labour three weeks early.”

Ever since, they have spent part of the year in Ibiza.

“With a newborn baby and twin seven-year-old boys you can’t move about very much, but we ventured a bit farther each day and gradually we got to know it, and we fell deeply in love with the island. My son Finn now lives there.”

Image above: Can Pep

Regenerative farming – a “hope-filled way of campaigning for the environment”

Finn is now a qualified architect, and having sold the original house, together they have renovated a 500-year-old farmhouse, ‘Can Pep’, which they are running as a regenerative farm project. Rebecca had done a lot of environmental campaigning “of the old fashioned placard outside Parliament sort. This feels like a much more hope-filled way of campaigning for the environment.”

She draws in the book on the islanders’ experience of a major fire. “In 2011 they had the worst fire in Ibiza’s history.”

The threat of fire is a very real concern, especially as the island is running out of water, yet the farmhouse is in the fire zone. When they bought it, the house was derelict, abandoned with the wicker chairs and gourds still in the kitchen and the old gas mantels. The house had no power or running water.

Image above: Eco pond at Can Pep

“The issues Ibiza is facing are a microcosm of the issues people are facing the world over”

The renovation of the house is spectacular, but the 300,000 square metres of land around it, even more so. Where there used to be a monoculture of pine trees they have introduced apricots, cherries and orange trees, recreating it as an ‘edible forest’.

“All the surface water on the island dried up 60 years ago when tourism took off,” says Rebecca, so instead of a swimming pool cleansed with bleach they have reintroduced a pond, cleaned by reeds.

“I wrote the book because I realised that the issues Ibiza is facing are a microcosm of the issues people are facing the world over. It took me 14 years to marry the personal story of this family with environmentalism.”

She now has money from the BFI to turn it into a screen play, so watch this space …

Image above: Can Pep

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