As the novel’s description implies this story is about a man abandoned by his mother early in life and his journey of self discovery as he takes a walking tour across country– becoming badly burnt and blistered in the process (or was that Harold Fry?).
His heart feels like the raw meat it is. It feels like something peeled and bleeding. It feels the way it felt when his mother left.
Newly divorced Futh goes on a journey to Germany to try to recapture the “magic” of a walking tour that he has taken before. It was with his father as a child, just after his mother had left them. Not really sure why he thought this would cheer him up– it sure did not work for him the first go around. Maybe he thought that he could get some action in the hotels like his father did? Maybe he thought that he could find the replacement mother he has always been searching for? Maybe he just thought that was what you were supposed to do after being left by your wife? Whatever the reason he ends up in Hellhaus and meets up with Ester, the landlady of the hotel he has randomly chosen to stay at.
His encounter with Ester is brief, but full of consequence. Ester is just as sad and pathetic as Futh– only looking for love rather than for a mother. She uses meaningless sex with hotel guests as her way of forgetting that her distant and violently jealous husband, Bernard, only married her as a vendetta against his brother. A misunderstanding causes Bernard to order Futh from the hotel and Futh is too dim to realize that he means it. He returns at the end of his uneventful journey only to encounter Ester and Bernard again. Yes, the ending is very abrupt and open-ended but very well done– eerily leaving everything up to the imagination. Creepy– like a Hitchcock movie.
What else can I say that Penny and Aaron haven’t already said? A great debut but maybe a little bit too melancholy for me. 3 stars for a short, but powerful novel. It will be interesting to see if this one makes the shortlist.
This review was posted simultaneously on BookerMarks by Jackie.