‘The Lighthouse’ by Alison Moore ****

I purchased The Lighthouse just by chance from the Oxfam Bookshop on Byres Road on my boyfriend’s birthday.  I remember seeing a few copies about when it was published, but have never read any reviews of it; nor did I know anyone in real life who had read it.  I started it out of intrigue on the same day (and read a large portion of it in the dim light of a Walkabout bar in central Glasgow whilst trying to drown out the sounds of very loud football supporters during an Arsenal game), and was immediately drawn in. 9781907773174

On the novel’s front cover, Margaret Drabble calls the prose ‘low-key’, and I think those two words sum it up perfectly.  Moore’s writing is measured and understated.  She has presented her story and protagonist incredibly well, and at no point did I lose interest.  Each character has been intrinsically pieced together.  Some are not given much of a voice, but they all come across as strikingly realistic beings.  The Lighthouse is psychologically rather intense.  The novel is quite funny in places too; acidly so.

I found it rather interesting that our narrator, Futh, was never identified with a first name; to me, the continual use of his surname showed just how influential his parents – and, in part, his extended family – were, both on his life and in the shaping of his personality.  Moore demonstrates, through this technique, the way in which despite his personal growth and independence, he could never quite break away from his past.  The geography of his past has been well but not precisely mapped; we know of a holiday he went on as a youngster to Cornwall, but are not told of the precise location that he called home.  In his present, however, the name of the first town in Germany to which he travels on his week’s holiday, has been named.  The juxtaposition here is interesting; whilst Futh’s present is arguably more alive because he is able to experience things, Moore makes it clear that his past is what is driving him onward.  The Lighthouse is essentially a story about people and things, not places; the characters here are the pivotal beings which drive the story onward.

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