Five words from the blurb: man, Germany, guest house, mother, lonely
The Lighthouse is a short book with wonderful imagery, but I can’t decide whether or not it works. It is one of those strange books that balances on the thin line between genius and madness. I’m still thinking about it many days after finishing, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt.
The book follows Futh, a middle-aged man who recently separated from his wife, as he heads off on a walking holiday in Germany. He arrives at a German guest house cleverly (?) called “Hellhaus” (which translates as lighthouse). The book is then narrated alternately by Ester, the owner of the guest house, and Futh. The story itself is very simple, mainly involving themes of loneliness and belonging. Revealing anything else about the plot would ruin the magic that may/may not be there.
I can’t really fault the writing – it was powerful, with a wonderfully claustrophobic sense of foreboding. Each scene was described in a detail that some people might find excessive, but I loved the way it indulged all the senses – especially the inclusion of smells, which are so often ignored in novels.
My main problem with the book was that the symbolism was heavy handed. There was no subtlety and I felt as though I was being beaten over the head by the continual reference to lighthouses.
Repeated mentions of camphor and violets also started to grate after a while.
The ending was bizarre. I was initially disappointed that it seemed to end mid-scene, but on reflection I’m beginning to think it was quite clever. My only problem was that I’m not entirely sure what the book was trying to achieve. The excessive symbolism of earlier sections made me think I was missing some deeper meaning. My confusion and conflicting emotions make this a perfect choice for a book club – I’d love to discuss the issues in the hope that other people might enlighten me.
This is a strange little book with a lot to recommend it. I can’t see it winning the Booker Prize, but its originality makes it one of the most memorable reads of the year.
The thoughts of other bloggers:
…it falls just inches shy of its aspiration to be something truly special because of a rather jarring ending which sadly feels a bit rushed, if not plain underdeveloped. Opinionless
I can’t begin to say what an incredible book this is; I loved it so much I bought extra copies to share with friends 2012: The Year in Books