Alison Moore’s short, but ominous novel, The Lighthouse, made it on to the shortlist for the 2012 Booker Prize. It follows the unlikely-named Futh, a recently separated man in his forties on a walking holiday to Germany. While he walks Futh recollects the separation of his parents, and the subsequent holiday he took to Germany with his father.
Futh is a strange, lonely character. Having just separated from his wife he takes a walking holiday to give himself some time to recover. When he returns home his boxed possessions will have been moved to his new flat. The trip begins in an unpromising manner when the hotel owner at his first stop orders him out without his breakfast in an angry confrontation. Futh is almost guileless, or unaware of the significance of events, but as a reader there is a constant sense or foreboding. This initial encounter casts a long shadow.
Alison Moore’s writing is extremely taut and precise. The novel is filled with a dark brooding, and in many ways the ending is not a surprise. It has almost been signposted from the start. An interesting factor is the use of smells, to plug directly into Futh’s memory of his mother and also in signalling events. Futh creates artificial scents for a living, and it seems no coincidence that the only thing he owns that belonged to his mother is a perfume bottle shaped like a lighthouse. While this is not a typical book it is a powerful first novel, full of melancholy.