Indie book a month - The Lighthouse

25 November 2012 / 2 comments
The Lighthouse Alison Moore book review

Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse was recently longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. This debut novel was published by Salt Publishing, gaining this independent press some well deserved attention. There is much to applaud about this book – but instead I’m going to focus on what I have learnt from reading this book as a writer …

  • The Lighthouse has a non-linear structure, imagine a black line that loops around and around, back upon itself. She writes in the present tense, which is Futh’s walking trip in Germany, but flashes back to different times in the past to tell his story
  • She gives us snapshots of key moments in his past, but rather than creating a shopping list of incidents that led to his mother leaving, she provides us with one key incident, and other smaller, yet significant, glimpses into the mother
  • She repeats her telling of the key incident – the picnic near the lighthouse, and each time reveals a little bit more about what happened. This gives the reader the feeling that they were there and they are remembering it (because they have heard the story before), but each time they learn a little bit more. This event is brilliantly understated - the smashed vial, a slap, a dramatic line ‘you bore me’         
  • There is an eeriness to her writing, a sense of loss, of sadness
  • There is an interesting parallel story of Ester. The reader never quite knows where her story is heading, and how or if Ester and Futh are going to cross paths again. This adds to the building of tension and intrigue
  • It is almost as though what she doesn’t write is more powerful than what she does write. In many ways she leaves the reader to create their own assumptions – to  join their own dot to dots. Even the ending, which has been described as terrible and harrowing, was very much left up to the reader to interpret.

I found this a very liberating story to read, as it breaks out of many of the conventions that can be constraining for writers. The Lighthouse shows that leaving something blank can be more compelling than painting portraits for our readers.

View The Lighthouse on Amazon


  1. Snap. I just recently read this and enjoyed it very much. I like your points especially the last one about how it's almost like what she didn't write was more powerful than what she included. I agree with you there. Often it's the unsaid bits that make something really terrific. I'm a firm believer of giving the reader space to bring their own imaginative constructions to the story.

    My response is on my wordpress site:

    Love your blog.

  2. Hello,
    This book looks interesting, but I often don't like books that are written in the present tense. I know that using the present tense is supposed to make the book more 'alive' to readers, but I really don't agree. I usually find it extremely annoying!


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