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on 29 March 2017
Had to get this for my literature degree and while it's helping me with some general points in my contemporary fiction essay, I didn't find it entertaining. It left me hungry and with lots of questions, but not in the good way that a well-written text does. It felt padded out (which is surprising as it's quite a short book) with irrelevance, and the ridiculous coincidences stretched my suspension of disbelief to breaking point. Futh is not at all a character I could believe in, and each character simply felt like some sort of badly written caricature. There was a lot of laziness on Moore's part in the way that she didn't seem to research anything about the places Futh would've visited along the Rhine, and it's a terrible injustice to the rich culture of that area of Germany that she didn't bother to have Futh visit any points of interest, such as museums or historical landmarks, even though he is the type of character who would've wanted to visit these places. It's a great book for exploring the reinvention of the narrative in contemporary fiction, but not enjoyable.
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on 17 July 2013
This book had been highly thought of, being nominated for the Man Booker prize. Whilst I could appreciate some of the literary skill, I found the story somewhat tedious and didn't really care for the protagonist which led to me becoming disengaged. It hasn't had a lasting impact on me, so I wouldn't really recommend it unless you are especially keen on reading books that are deliberately aiming to appeal to the high-brow audience.
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on 13 April 2017
the best book i've ever read. Magical.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 February 2014
I don't know what to make of this book. It started well and the first quarter built a quiet sense of mystery and impending menace. I felt no empathy toward the central character, Huth. A mediocre man suffering lifelong anguish, self doubt and crisis was off on a literal and metaphorical journey. There were moments of potential interest in his dull world, but they were quickly and summarily dismissed as he focused on his objective.

It's beautifully written and I enjoyed the change of viewpoint between two characters as the story moved forward. But overall I become overwhelmed with the tedium and minutiae of their lives and the quality of the writing didn't do enough to lift me and make this an enjoyable and fulfilling read. Ms Moore uses symbolism and smells throughout the story; Venus flytraps, camphor, violets, the lighthouse. For me, it was overused to the point of contrivance. A complex tale, but not one I enjoyed.
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on 17 May 2015
I read this aloud to my wife and found myself rushing over the mountains of description. We didn't need to know every object in the entire room in each setting. It was a poignant novel, but weighed down by overkill on the detail.
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on 13 May 2017
Sorry struggled with this one
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2014
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!
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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.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 15 August 2012
This haunting novel begins on a ferry on a North Sea crossing where we meet our main character, Futh, a middle-aged man, who is separated from his wife and is going to Germany for a walking holiday. While standing on the deck in the cold night air, Futh's thoughts turn to his mother who left him and his father when Futh was a boy and later, in his cabin, he thinks about his wife and of the end of their marriage and: "His heart feels like the raw meat it is. It feels like something peeled and bleeding. It feels the way it felt when his mother left."

When Futh arrives in Holland he drives to Hellhaus, near Koblenz, in Germany, where he has booked a room in a small hotel, also named Hellhaus (which means 'bright house' or 'lighthouse' in German) where he plans to spend his first and last night. In alternating chapters with Futh's story, we read about Ester, the owner of the hotel, who is married to Bernard, but who sleeps with any of the passing guests who take her fancy.

This is a very short book so I shall be careful not to reveal too much information and spoil the story for prospective readers, however I will just say that as Futh continues his walking holiday, his thoughts continually return to the abandonment of him by his mother, his difficult life with his father after his mother left and the disintegration of his own marriage. His mind also ponders on his childhood friendship with his next door neighbour, Kenny, his anxious aunt, Freda, and the recent unusual encounter he had with Carl, a man he met on the ferry. The lighthouse is a reoccurring device, from the lighthouse mentioned on a picnic in Cornwall when his mother was still with him and his father, the 'Morse Code' torchlight flashes sent back and forth between a young Futh and his friend, Kenny, the name of the hotel where he stays in Germany, and the silver lighthouse trinket that he keeps as a memento of his mother.

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.
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on 20 November 2015
After I read this book, I thought about it a lot. I was even lucky enough to pass my thoughts on to the author who has always found the time to engage her readership. Futh's world is post-modern and yet rooted in sturdy details. If it is hard to pin down then it's because 'life is not like that'. Tragic and unforgettable. This is a well accomplished narrative and one I will come back to again with fresh eyes.
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