Less than a week to Man Booker Prize 2012 gala, The Lighthouse, Alison Moore’s debut novel, is one of the most talked about shortlisted books.
Alison Moore takes a tale of an ordinary man and turns it into an extra ordinary book.
This short, but powerful, story begins with Futh’s appearance on a North Sea ferry. He is a middle-aged man, running away from a broken marriage. He is on his way to a week-long walking holiday in Germany.
From the start, there is melancholy and loneliness. Futh is what you can call a socially awkward man, with a troubled childhood.
He is neurotic to the point of being sympathetic. He never shook off his mother’s abundance. And now his wife, who he married mainly because of the resemblance to his mother, has abandoned him.
Even the holiday is seen as something to be done and over for him. He planned to stay in the guesthouse named Hellhaus, owned by Bernard and his wife Ester, on the first and last night of his holiday. Ester treats him well. However, there is a visible hostility in Bernard’s actions.
The next morning he leaves for his tour around the Rhein, and his walk down memory lane begins. With the random memories, mostly triggered by scent, the reader travels back and forth with Futh. One memory returns repeatedly… the moment his mother abandoned him – because she was bored. He was left with only a small perfume bottle in the shape of a lighthouse, which he still carries everywhere as something both to comfort and warn.
Up until Hellhaus, the reader only sees Futh’s perspective with a close third person narrative. Afterwards, chapters alternate, exploring Ester’s memories and the connections between the two characters.
As Jenn Ashworth from The Guardian says “deliciously unsettling… Our sense of inevitable disaster becomes almost unbearable.” This story leaves you frightened and in a dreamlike haze with all the memories, substituent characters, repetitions and intertwined past and present.
It lets the reader explore the pain and numbness of being left behind. Moore proves her talent in writing with this slow motioned, yet still a page turner, story. The simple plot is powered by brilliant foreshadowing, amazing symbolism, and its multilayered structure.
The ending might be, unfortunately, a bit underdeveloped, yet, it still manages to leave the reader in serious shock.