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.
on 18 January 2013
No point in running through the story line of this book as it has been done to death by previous reviewers.
It was a bleak and down beat read - but what was interesting were the constant flashbacks to earlier scenes and events in the lives of the two main characters. The constant references to smells tell us that this is a powerful component of memory and one which is able to encapsulate the vividness of the moment and forever imprint it. Both characters are devastatingly affected by past events and the lack of love received in their lives; they appear to revisit these issues over and over again. But strangely they both seem to lack any real depth or circumspection - as if they are resigned to their fates - or have even died a little inside.
I do wonder why writers write books like this - I am sure it was wonderfully crafted - brimming with imagery and meaning - and I am also sure all of this deserved a lot of working out by the reader - meditation and then enlightenment. But what are they trying to achieve? The trouble is I haven't got the time or the inclination to work it all out and so much of the book was wasted on me.
No wonder it was a Booker Prize candidate because this sort of book will impress the judges. However, it did not lift the spirits.
Overall - an interesting if not a particularly enjoyable read.
on 10 September 2013
I have recently bought and read this book,
after just finding out about Alison Moore having read about the Pre war house book.
The Lighthouse story has its main character Futh and his parents , straight away I got the sense that Futh was a man that had had his relationship and his way of life ruined somewhat by his strange parents I think Futh may have behaved differently but I think had his life shaped and conditioned by his parents
This book is dark and haunting but also very vague it continues throughout feeling a bit like groundhog day Futh goes on his walking holiday I think for escape to find himself again after a break down of his relationship but it doesn't work his mother is as equally as unhappy in her relationships seeking comfort affection and friendship in others
I noticed the way that Futh saw others was somewhat odd his quietness and shyness was almost unsettling and upsetting his clinginess toward his mother needing the familiar things around him that reminded him of his mum showed that this was a man who craved love and attention as well as being given the ability to find his voice
I can see that Fuths dad must have had his troubles too I think both Futh and his parents were going around in circles knowing they were unhappy and despite Fuths mum needing to escape, they seem as though they are stuck in a stuffy boring small family unit all desperate to break away from one another, for a better future
I felt quite sad for Futh all the way throughout this book bless him, he just seemed so accepting of being trapped in unhappy situations and he just didn't question it I hoped at the end of the book that futh and his family would find peace and things would improve but it doesn't ... and your left wondering what ever happened to them
this book is probably the most haunting and unsettling story I have ever read the descriptive language used through out the book is excellent, the use of metaphor and the settings brought to life jumping out of the page at you is very clever
the book draws you into the story , willing the characters to find some backbone willing Futh and his mother to speak out
to change things for the better .this is an unusual read it s depressing its dark and its haunting it will indeed leave you wondering what happened to Futh and his mum ..
on 17 October 2012
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.
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. We have a sense of lonely people, sometimes living in company, sometimes clinging to fond memories with sentimentality whilst their lives slowly decompose. Youthful hope becomes middle aged routine becomes old age anaesthetic.
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.
And there is a better life to be had. Futh's childhood nemesis Kenny demonstrates that with enough charisma, it is possible to turn even modest opportunities into apparent success.
It's difficult to say more without spoiling the finely crafted sequencing; without dampening the powder. Suffice to say that it captured the 2012 Booker prize jury's collective imagination. Hopefully it will progress through to the shortlist.
on 2 April 2014
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 understanding that we feel the pain of Futh's bleeding heels as much as we do his damaged soul. The buses that don't run, the lost path, the sunburn, the missed meals and Futh's bungling progress are agony. I read on wishing things might get better for him but knowing they wouldn't. He was trapped as an uneasy traveller, like the car on the car deck so vividly described on the last page. The writing is beautifully judged and spare and also full of humour. A really rewarding book that left me wanting to pick it up again for subtleties that I had missed.
on 1 January 2015
I have noticed a trend, of late, for writing stories in which socially inept or naive gentlemen embark on a kind of self discovering journey. During the course of these life affirming adventures they usually manage to gain some deep illumination, ultimately leading to the restoration of an ailing relationship, or the forming of a new one.
Personally, I find that these books can often be fairly amusing, moving and well written and so I was keen to get stuck into Alison Moore’s first novel.
In The Lighthouse we join the unfortunately named Futh, an introverted, borderline Aspergers suffering man in his forties as he takes an apparently overdue walking holiday along part of the gorgeous Rhine River in Germany.
Futh, it seems, has many, many issues and can be forgiven for being a little socially awkward. He is separated from his wife who, may or may not be having an affair with his only friend, Kenny. He has apparent Oedipal tendencies thanks in part to Kenny’s mother who appears to have skirted the boundaries of acceptable social behaviour when he was a child and to his own mother, who walked out and left Futh to be raised by a physically and emotionally abusive father.
As well as Futh the book’s other central character is Ester. Who, like him, has a long list of emotional defects. Bored in her marriage and craving excitement and attention, she regularly engages in illicit unions with the various guests who stay at the small hotel that she jointly owns and runs with her husband. Unfortunately for Ester, her husband is the jealous type and her extra martial interest often results in a severe beating at his hands.
The characters, although not always that likeable, are well written and more than once I found myself feeling a little pity for Futh and Ester as they naively wind their way through life, unaware of the apparently tragic conclusion that awaits them.
So I guess what this all comes down to is... When I myself get to a certain age and set off down the Rhine or on a trek across Northumberland, or just get lost going to the shops in a lovable way, would I have a copy of “The Lighthouse” in my knapsack?
It’s not that it was badly written or even that I didn’t enjoy reading it. I just felt that in a book where the main character takes a walking trip down a major river in a beautiful country, there is sadly very little description about the scenery or the holiday itself. Instead, the bulk of the story seems to revolve around flashbacks which, although important to the plot and characterisation leaves the reader wanting something a little more substantial.
As mentioned earlier I believe that, at this time there are a number of books, which in my opinion have similar narratives to this. With such abundance in the market I hoped that The Lighthouse would shine out from the others. Unfortunately it didn’t and I would humbly suggest that if you see this light house blinking, sail the other way.
on 6 July 2014
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. Futh's most prized possession is a silver lighthouse, a perfume case without its vial, which he keeps in his pocket like a talisman. Through recurring memories, the story behind the lighthouse surfaces, and its link to his mother becomes clear.
While this sounds like a feasible symbol, it is a pity that the author does little more with it, and instead becomes a tenacious link between Futh and Ester, the nymphomaniac German landlady in the the small hotel he lands up in, because she has a wooden version of it. But beyond that, one finds it hard to find a larger connection, besides the fact that she too, is intensely unhappy, and her story runs parallel to Futh's, and that their paths intersect on his journey. The lighthouse is again alluded to in the name of the town and hotel, Hellhaus, "which translates as 'bright house' or 'light house'". Futh observes that it is suitably named as it is "whitewashed and moonlit, it is incandescent", when he arrives and sees the hotel for the first time. However, to this reader, the coincidence of this seems a little forced and unconvincing.
That said, the saving grace to this slim and very readable novel is its spare prose and the detached and unemotional tone of Moore's writing, which I felt was very effective in conveying the quiet desperation of Futh and Ester's lives. The characters' inner turmoil is at best, alluded to, by their actions, which are almost banal in their simplicity, and packs a tighter punch than if they were to be explicitly expressed.
on 1 April 2013
I had a taster on my Kindle and was keen to read the novel. I thought it was very well-wrtitten but i found the ending to be most disappointing. Perhaps I missed the point. I picked up most of the 'threads' in the story but on the final page I thought: "Oh. Is that it?"
Would probably give this a 3.5
Weird yet compelling story, following a character named Futh, as he undertakes a walking tour of Germany to get over a recent broken marriage. We soon become aware that Futh is a bit 'odd', and this is emphasized by the author's style of writing - always focussing on actions, rather than on specific thoughts and emotions. As he travels, he recollects incidents from his past: most notably his mother's walking out on the family (finally driven to it when Futh's father was giving a boring lecture on lighthouses). He carries with him at all times a silver, lighthouse-shaped perfume bottle, once owned by his mother.
In alternate chapters the author deals with another character, Ester, wife of the owner of the 'Hellhaus' (= 'lighthouse') guest house, where Futh is to spend the first and last nights of the tour. A bored wife, given to making her husband jealous to get his attention...
The novel uses - slightly repetitively - certain themes or devices, that seem to link separate events. Lighthouses, of course, but also violets, camphor, Venus fly traps.
I quite enjoyed it; Ms Moore managed to evoke quite a feeling of doom in the pit of the reader's stomach!