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The Lighthouse (SALT MODERN FICTION) [Paperback]

Alison Moore
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012

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.

At the end of the week, Futh, sunburnt and blistered, comes to the end of his circular walk, returning to what he sees as the sanctuary of the Hellhaus hotel, unaware of the events which have been unfolding there in his absence.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing (15 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907773177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907773174
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Alison Moore is a novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, The Lighthouse, won the McKitterick Prize 2013 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and the National Book Awards 2012 (New Writer of the Year). Her second novel, He Wants, will be published on 15 August 2014. Her short stories have been published in Best British Short Stories anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The title story of her debut collection, The Pre-War House and Other Stories, won a novella prize and the collection was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2014. She is published by Salt. 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.

Product Description


A haunting and accomplished novel. (Katy Guest The Independent on Sunday)

It is this accumulation of the quotidian, in prose as tight as Magnus Mills’s, which lends Moore’s book its standout nature, and brings the novel to its ambiguous, thrilling end. (Philip Womack The Telegraph)

No surprise that this quietly startling novel won column inches when it landed on the Man Booker Prize longlist. After all, it’s a slender debut released by a tiny independent publisher. Don’t mistake The Lighthouse for an underdog, though. For starters, it’s far too assured … Though sparely told, the novel’s simple-seeming narrative has the density of far longer work. People and places are intricately evoked with a forensic feel for mood. It’s title becomes a recurring motif, from the Morse code torch flashes of Futh’s boyhood to the lighthouse-shaped silver perfume case that he carries in his pocket, history filling the void left by its missing vial of scent. Warnings are emitted, too – by Futh’s anxious aunt and an intense man he meets on the ferry. It all stokes a sense of ominousness that makes the denouement not a bit less shocking. (Hephzibah Anderson The Daily Mail)

The writing is sublime. Spare, sometimes straightforward and sometimes quite opaque. But regardless of the overall transparency, the immediate images of the room or the street or the clifftop are crystal clear, conjured from very few but very well chosen words. The people, too, feel real. They have complex emotions and don't always do logical or sensible things, but they always convince. As they move around one another in still, empty spaces they create a dramatic tension that the reader can almost touch. We wish their lives could be better. (

This is powerful writing likely to shine in your memory for a long time. (Emily Cleaver LITRO Magazine)

Evocative and beautifully written in a spare and simple prose, this is a haunting, sombre and somewhat unsettling story that pulls you in quietly, yet powerfully; I downloaded this onto my Kindle early this morning and read it from the beginning to the rather surprising end in one sitting. We know it is on the longlist for the Booker Prize; it deserves to make it onto the shortlist and I, for one, very much hope it does. (

The Lighthouse is a stunning book. Read it. Then read it again. (Zoe King

Alison Moore's writing is exquisite, the prose simple and powerful, but it's the use of imagery which really marks it out as something special. (Sue Magee The Bookbag)

In The Lighthouse Alison Moore has created an unsettling, seemingly becalmed but oddly sensual, and entirely excellent novel. (Alan Bowden Words of Mercury)

Alison Moore's debut novel has all the assurance of a veteran, a strong contender for the prize, its sense of despair will either be its making or its undoing: 9/10. (Roz Davison Don't Read That Read This)

Ultimately,what drew me into this bleak tale of sorrow and abandonment was the quality of the writing – so taut and economical it even looked different on the page somehow – and so effective in creating a mounting sense of menace and unease. It never flinches. (Isabel Costello On the literary sofa)

This is an incredibly powerful, sad story. A beautiful, if austere book. And an amazingly talented writer. If it is a first novel, I guess it will not be the last because this is the kind of writing that is here to stay… (Josephine Huys

Moore’s writing has a superb sense of the weight of memory. (Kate Saunders The Times)

The Lighthouse is a spare, slim novel that explores grief and loss, the patterns in the way we are hurt and hurt others, and the childlike helplessness we feel as we suffer rejection and abandonment. It explores the central question about leaving and being left: even when it feels inevitable, why does it hurt so much, and why is this particular kind of numbness so repellent to others? The brutal ending continues to shock after several re-readings. (Jenn Ashworth The Guardian)

The Lighthouse looks simple but isn't, refusing to unscramble what seems a bleak moral about the hazards of reproduction, in the widest sense. Small wonder that it stood up to the crash-testing of a prize jury's reading and rereading. One of the year's 12 best novels? I can believe it. (Anthony Cummins The Observer)

The writing in The Lighthouse is spare and deceptively simple – there is in fact nothing simple about it – it is the kind of pared down writing that hides a multitude of complexities and leaves behind it an array of images and in this case scents. Upon closing this terribly bittersweet novel, the reader is assaulted by the memory of violets, camphor and cigarette smoke. There are several returning images and motifs in the novel, such as lighthouses, bathrooms, scents and abandonment which are beautifully explored. (

This is a book that might have vanished had it not been picked up by the Booker judges. It deserves to be read, and reread. No laughs, no levity, just a beautiful, sad, overripe tale that lingers in the mind. (Isabel Berwick Financial Times)

What must have gone some way to earning The Lighthouse a place on the longlist, though, is the admirable simplicity of Moore’s prose. Like Futh, its without flourishes, yet beneath its outward straightforwardness lies a hauntingly complex exploration of the recurring patterns that life inevitably follows, often as a consequence of one’s past. (Francesca Angelini The Sunday Times)

The Lighthouse, Alison Moore’s melancholic debut, would eventually have found admiring readers through the great network of word of mouth. That it has been shortlisted, deservedly, for the Man Booker Prize will quicken the process. This is a beautiful short novel sustained by muted urgency, nuance and the exactness with which Moore conveys the paralysing levels of depression that Futh battles. In order to deal with the present he attempts to make sense of his past, which refuses to fade away. His thoughts throb with humiliating episodes from his boyhood, cut short when his bored, dissatisfied mother left, leaving his father to voice his anger at his only audience, the bewildered boy. (Eileen Battersby The Irish Times)

A debut novel from a high-achieving independent publisher, The Lighthouse has surprised some observers with its place on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Disquieting, deceptive, crafted with a sly and measured expertise, Alison Moore's story could certainly deliver a masterclass in slow-burn storytelling to those splashier literary celebs who take more pains over a pyrotechnic paragraph than a watertight plot. (Boyd Tonkin The Independent)

The originality, structure and neat prose of this first novel justify its shortlisting, but it doesn't do much to lift the soul. (Kate Green Country Life)

I am almost reluctant to share anything about Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse at this stage, because I don’t want to spoil it in any way for others. The Lighthouse is a short novel of only 182 pages, but is – dare I say it – perfectly formed. This is a tense, suspenseful work, the plot ticking like a time bomb. (Megan Dunn The Listener New Zealand)

"The Lighthouse," Alison Moore's debut novel, is sufficiently strange to win. The third-person narrator is distanced from, but never judges, the weird protagonist Futh, a middle-aged, not particularly attractive, recently separated man going on a walking tour in Germany. He is visiting some places he went to with his newly single father, after his mother abandoned them when he was 12. The people he meets along the way are even less prepossessing than he, but the narrator's tone of voice somehow contrives to make the reader continue to turn the pages. (Paul Levy Wall Street Journal)

A man who is newly-separated from his wife but middle-aged, embarks on a walking trip in Germany. At one of the B n B’s that he is staying at the landlady is also contemplating her life and marriage. You could be so easily fooled into thinking that this book is mundane and just captures the hum-drum of their every-day lives, but the author, without writing what happens, is telling you really what is going on! You also have to make up your mind as to what outcomes there are at the end. I can’t tell you how brilliantly stunning this book is and I think it’s a credit to Booker that this has come from a small publishing company, yet packs one hell of a punch. (RBKC Libraries blog)

The menacing atmosphere Moore builds up is masterful, in that Futh only partly perceives it, through his own preoccupations. A pair of silky knickers he finds under his bed only makes him think squeamishly that the dust on them is ‘strangers’ dead skin’. Rarely is dullness so dangerous. (Laura Marsh Literary Review)


Melancholy and haunting. The sense of loneliness and discomfort and rejection is compelling, the low key prose carefully handled. It’s a serious novel with a distinctive and unsettling atmosphere. (Margaret Drabble)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violet scented loneliness 15 Aug 2012
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
The Lighthouse is an unusual and terribly sad novel. It is also rather good.

The novel tells two stories in interleaved chapters. The odd numbered chapters tell the story of a man called Futh who is going on a walking holiday in Germany, somewhat half-heartedly. The even numbered chapters tell the story of Ester, a guest house landlady.

Futh is lonely; he is middle aged, separated from his wife Angela and seems to lack any real support network, either in the form of friends or family. He has a back story, but very little present story. He is simply adrift, waiting to see which way the tide sends him, his only anchor is a silver lighthouse in his pocket. The opening chapter, set on the deck of a car ferry plying the Harwich to Hook of Holland route tells us that this is unlikely to be a story of ostentatious wealth and splendour.

Meanwhile, Ester, the landlady of the first and last hotel on Futh's planned walking route also has a small lighthouse. Moreover, her guesthouse is called the Hellehaus - a literal but incorrect translation of "light house" in German. She, too, is lonely and bobbing in the tide, not going anywhere but quietly leading the life of Molly Bloom. This use of repeated imagery is a real trademark in the novel. Whether it is lighthouses, violets, bathrooms or a host of other images, they keep cropping up over and over again. At first this feels uncomfortable but by the end of the short novel, it is a source of immense power. Moreover, the story keeps returning to the same few incidents, each time offering just a little bit more information or a slightly different perspective. It builds into something very simple but very evocative

The overall impression is deeply melancholy.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing style, but disappointing story 17 Oct 2012
By Ben
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was quite promising at the beginning. The writing style is very detailed and clear. The present tense for the actual journey he is undertaking is contrasted against the past tense for his back story, and this is done very well. However, the book is written throughout in very close focus, which gets a little wearisome after a while. The observation of minute details, which at first impresses for the expertise behind it, becomes wearying and relentless after a while.

As other reviewers have said, the main character, Futh, is rather dull, and personally I found his name really irritating by the end of the book. Although bad things happen to him, it is difficult to feel much sympathy towards him because there is little to like about him. The story doesn't really develop - although his past is revealed in bits, it is more or less all the same - people don't like him, and he doesn't have very much fun. The book could begin and end anywhere and the effect would be the same. The ending is a mild blip on a more or less horizontal line.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars However Did It Get Booker Shortlisted? 7 July 2014
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I wanted to like this book because I admire Salt Publishing, and from interviews Alison Moore sounds an interesting person. But I have to say that after forty pages I nearly gave up - and it was sheer will power that kept me plugging on to the end. This is a short book (under 200 pages) but it feels much longer than a 500-page Stieg Larsson at times!

The plot revolves around Futh, a middle-aged half-German half-English industrial chemist who has returned to Germany to undertake a walking tour after the collapse of his marriage. As he bumbles about the countryside (which is barely described - we could be in a particularly drab bit of England for all Moore bothers to make the area come to life) he meditates on his childhood, his mother's departure when he was still young, his uneasy relationship with his father, his confused feelings for Gloria, their next door neighbour, who once tried to seduce him and then ended up with his father, and his unhappy marriage to Angela, a girl who he met at a motorway service station. He also obsesses a lot about a small silver model of a lighthouse, part of a perfume bottle that once belonged to his mother and that gets stolen. Futh's story is told alongside that of Ester, the landlady of the cheap hotel in the rather obviously named village 'Hellhaus' where Futh stays. Ester too is very miserable (it's that type of book), in an unhappy marriage to a jealous brute. She seeks consolation in casual flings, hoarding and endlessly reading Mills and Boon books (how popular are these in Germany?). Basically, the novel consists of Ester and Futh endlessly meditating on their miseries and useless lives until the final chapters, when Moore suddenly realizes that something has to happen to end the book, and tacks on a melodramatic finale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
It's hard to pinpoint how I feel about this book. Firstly, I can see why it has been shortlisted for lots of awards. It is clever, and playful in its construction if not its subject matter. It is beautifully, tightly written, and there is not a wasted word in the whole book. It is thoughtful and eerie, and leaves you pondering it long after you have read it.

On the other hand, having read it, I found myself wondering why I had stuck with it.

It tells the story of Futh, a bunglingly incompetent, lonely, emotionally illiterate man in middle age, whose wife has left him, and who goes on a walking holiday in Germany to reinvigorate himself before coming home to start a new life. It also tells the story of Ester, a blowsy, alcoholic, German land lady, whose life has turned out to be full of disappointment and haunted with a misery she is incapable of dealing with and blots out with sex and gin. Ester and Futh's lives intertwine and their chance encounter leads to disaster.

The story is horrible in the way it maps out the futility and drab misery of wasted human existence, both Futh and Ester's. Its sense of impending doom gets more and more persistent as the story unfolds and you find yourself willing Futh in particular, to wake up to himself and his life. As it is, there is nothing to be done, and the consequence is a car crash of a book that leaves you feeling unsettled and sad with the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars ... my taste - I stuck to it but didn't enjoy it.
Very well written but too gloom-infused for my taste - I stuck to it but
didn't enjoy it.
Published 18 days ago by katetudor
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An excellent read. I could identify with the character.
Published 24 days ago by Raymond Berry
3.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Suggestion
The novel peeks into the life of middle-aged Futh, as he reflects on his childhood, his parents, and his recently ended marriage while on a walking holiday in Germany. Read more
Published 26 days ago by J. Ang
1.0 out of 5 stars Nasty nihilistic nonsense
When reading a novel I expect the characters to be changed in some way and for me, the reader, to learn something from their transformation. Read more
Published 1 month ago by JediNights
3.0 out of 5 stars A guiding light for life
A man stands on a ferry. He is going on a walking holiday to Germany. With him he only has what he needs and a small silver lighthouse. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jo D'Arcy
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, but ...
Moore has a hypnotic style based upon spare, precise description and the patterned repetition of images--in particular, the lighthouse itself. Read more
Published 2 months ago by M. READ
4.0 out of 5 stars To the Lighthouse or not
Not Virginia Woolf but one was enough. Read this for its characters and style. Not at all pretentious and well worth it!
Published 3 months ago by Brian Last
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and desperately sad
I loved this beautiful novel. With a surgeon's skill the writer strips back to the bone, revealing what it is to be human and to suffer, but she writes with such compassion and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by countrygirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling and haunting
This is not a book to love (hence no 5 stars), but one to admire. Spare prose and recurrent imagery creates a small and oppressively compulsive and claustrophobic world, with a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Stephen
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully morose
Written in a clipped, sparse style and featuring two lonely, wasted souls set on a collision course this short book is well worth a read. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Fute
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