I have been struggling to find reading time recently, so decided to read a book that has been languishing on my TBR (To Be Read) pile that was short enough to read in a single day; The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. The Lighthouse was published by Salt on 15th August 1012 and is available for purchase on Amazon, directly from the publisher and from all good book sellers.
The Lighthouse begins on a North Sea ferry, on whose blustery outer deck stands Futh, a middle-aged, recently separated man heading to Germany for a restorative walking holiday. Spending his first night in Hellhaus at a small, family-run hotel, he finds the landlady hospitable but is troubled by an encounter with an inexplicably hostile barman.In the morning, Futh puts the episode behind him and sets out on his week-long circular walk along the Rhine. As he travels, he contemplates his childhood; a complicated friendship with the son of a lonely neighbour, his parents’ broken marriage and his own.
But the story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all others, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find. He recalls his first trip to Germany with his newly single father. He is mindful of something he neglected to do there, an omission which threatens to have devastating repercussions for him this time around.
My Review of The Lighthouse
Futh is taking a walking holiday alone in Germany following the break up of his marriage, but during his week away the past is never far behind him.
Gosh what a cleverly written and frequently quite disturbing read The Lighthouse is. I can’t decide if I love it or loathe it. The prose is so atmospheric, with a claustrophobic feel as we encounter Ester’s loveless, violent, marriage and Futh’s fixation on his mother. The two stories interweave with iterative images of scent and oranges so that there are clues for the reader about the plot as well as the characters.
Indeed, it is the characters that are confusing me. I didn’t like any of them, not even Futh, who has been scarred by his mother’s abandonment and his father’s brutality, and I could fully understand his wife, Angela, wanting to be rid of him, However, I couldn’t stop reading about them, a bit like when you see a road accident and you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself. Futh is a very damaged man and the novel explores both physical and emotional harm in a way that I found uncomfortable, even though much of that exploration is through implication rather than explicit event. The sexuality presented felt distasteful to me as Ester tries to curry favour with any male guest who crosses her path, somewhat like the way the Venus flytraps in her bathroom snap up their prey, or as Gloria behaves inappropriately towards the child Futh, but I have a feeling that is exactly what Alison Moore was hoping to convey and she has done so brilliantly.
The plot itself seems initially simplistic. A man, Futh, goes on a week’s walking holiday in Germany. But the reader shouldn’t be fooled. There is an incredible depth to this brief story. The nature of relationships and the past and their impact on us is utterly absorbing in its presentation, and the way in which scent and aroma can influence memory and behaviour is fascinating in its depiction. Plot elements are layered upon one another so that the more I think about what I’ve read, the more I notice.
I still can’t decide whether I enjoyed reading The Lighthouse, but I won’t forget it in a hurry and it has certainly made me think – sometimes against my will.
About Alison Moore
Alison Moore is a novelist and short story writer. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border. She is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at Nottingham University.
You can find out more about Alison via her website