Book Review: 2012 Shortlisted: Alison Moore's The Lighthouse

Rating: 3

The Lighthouse

A Novel by Alison Moore

2012 / 192 Pages

Well, that was tragic.

I’m trying to recall a novel that oozed loneliness as much as The Lighthouse.  The characters were lonely.  The plot was lonely.  The symbolism was lonely.  The book’s prognosis was lonely.

I needed a hug when it was done.

In the midst of his wife leaving him, “Futh” decides to go on a walking holiday in Germany.  The trip is supposed to be restorative.  It’s supposed to offer healing.  Futh brings little, expects little, and is prepared for little.  The trip will unquestionably unearth his past, and cause him to reflect on his present.  Will he like what he uncovers?   Will he permit the shards of his memory permanent residence in his mind?  Ultimately, will this well-intentioned holiday feed his soul?

Heaven knows if there was ever a soul that needed nourishment, it was this awkward and bumbling character.  The poor creature didn’t know how to act.  He was always at a loss for words.  He could barely muster enough conviction to muddle through the most benign of circumstances.  Most of his actions or inactions were wholly cringe-worthy.

After reading for a short while, it becomes painfully obvious why Futh is an emotional disaster.  He faced mother abandonment issues.  His father was colossally one-sided, and that side most often bristled with anger.  His childhood “friend” Kenny was no more available to him than the man in the moon.  His neighbor wished to seduce him.  Eventually, his wife would betray him.

Sounds like a good walk is just the ticket.

Sadly, there was no nourishment to be had for Futh.  Readers who pick up this novel wishing for their protagonist to eventually become fulfilled will be disappointed.  However, if you pick up this Man Booker nominee knowing from the outset that the story is an examination of loss, then you’re in for an incredibly well written tale.  The emotions are palpable.  The symbolism is sharp.  The characters who surround him are fascinating.

Did I actually like, or connect with any of the characters in The Lighthouse?  The answer to that is no.  No one in this story ever offered a kind word.  No one met in the middle.  No one seemed to care.  That in itself was distressing.  It does not, however detract from the story’s emotional reach.  It’s very effective in its portrayal of someone who simply does not know how to fit in.

Overall, The Lighthouse is a well written but sad, circular journey.  3 stars for the character development, detail and prose, but with a simultaneous longing for a more positive ending.