By: Alison Moore
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
On the outer deck of a North Sea ferry stands Futh, a middle-aged and newly separated man, on his way to Germany for a restorative walking holiday. After an inexplicably hostile encounter with a hotel landlord, Futh sets out along the Rhine. As he contemplates an earlier trip to Germany and the things he has done in his life, he does not foresee the potentially devastating consequences of things not done. The Lighthouse, Alison Moore’s first novel, tells the tense, gripping story of a man trying to find himself, but becoming lost.
I find myself drawn quite a bit to the titles featured in the Man Booker 2012 longlist (longlist here). I enjoyed reading Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (review), Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident (review) and Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home (review) and I have Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry sitting on my Kobo, waiting to be read. There was also this book I picked up last year for my Kobo; the premise, and indeed the title, made it the perfect title to read in the spring time.
I felt pretty bad for Futh throughout the novel. The novel follows Futh on his holiday to and in Germany, much needed as he and his wife recently separated. The reader follows his recollections of his life as he goes off on his hiking trips. These recollections are out of order but recount his childhood and meeting his wife, Angela, and the ups and downs that happened all throughout. It is clear from his childhood memories that he was greatly affected by his mother leaving him at a young age and his father’s screw-ups, criticism and alcoholism; I’m not surprised that he grew up as awkward and as introverted as he did. It also sadly affected his relationship with his wife, who was too different and perhaps not as adept in recognising how affected he was by his mother’s abandonment to understand Futh (which is also sad because Futh, by my impression of reading the book, is quite harmless).
At the same time the book also follows Ester, who works at a hotel with her husband Bernard. Her relationship with her husband had deteriorated over the years and she finds herself acting out/channeling her frustrations and unfulfilled dreams elsewhere. It was also quite sad to follow her story and how things had turned out for her over the years.
The Lighthouse‘s prose is simple but evokes the power of memory and reflection. Futh and Ester lead ordinary lives and yet there is a sadness that permeates throughout. The premise does however also make a bit of a strange read; I wasn’t quite sure where everything was headed at times (perhaps a reflection of the theme of becoming lost?). I was surprised that their paths crossed a second time, but wasn’t sure what to make of it. The ending was left pretty ambiguous–I’m still not sure what to think of it, to be quite honest–but otherwise it was an interesting journey following these two characters and the people who were involved in their lives over the years.