He Wants by Alison Moore

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He Wants by Alison Moore

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Brilliantly, sensitively written and with Moore's trademark trust in the reader as changes in a man's mundane life bring about a brutal denouement. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Salt Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1907773815

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Lewis Sullivan is close to retirement, but elderly beyond his years and widowed. Edie's death seems to have had practical implications - he's not getting the food he used to enjoy - but beyond that it's difficult to see quite what they had in common other than the library. He used it and she worked there - but they didn't even enjoy the same books. Lewis is an RE teacher at the same school where his father, Lawrence, used to teach - when they were both there at the same time it often confused the paperwork. Lewis is beginning to wonder if he chose the wrong career, if he lives in the wrong place. He used to be able to see the house he grew up in from the bedroom window before it was demolished and replaced by a supermarket carpark, but he's always dreamed of living by the sea. His adult daughter, Ruth visits him every day and brings him soup.

He doesn't want soup.

I discovered Alison Moore through The Lighthouse, shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, and was gripped by the quality of the writing and the skill of the plotting, particularly when a big story was contained in a slim volume. It struck me that Moore trusted her readers to pick up the clues and understand what was happening and it seems that this is going to be the trademark of her work. With The Lighthouse I felt an immediate need to reread - and the same instinct has surfaced with He Wants.

It's an elegant story of repressed desires and a life lived according to rules. Lewis frequents his second-favourite pub, for half a shandy - but mainly for a bit of human company and the chance of something other than soup to eat. He could go the local supermarket - but he was once fined for leaving his car in the car park for more than the permitted two hours. He paid the fine promptly - but is now too embarrassed to go back to the supermarket. But once he begins to think about what he would really like - in all sorts of areas - the pressure cooker of his life cannot cope. The ending is brutal, shocking. I've now read that chapter several times - without any lessening of the impact.

I prefered The Lighthouse but I'll confess that might be because He Wants caught me on the quick several times. I'm in the same age group as Lewis and there were several shocks of recognition - not all of them pleasant - as light was shone into some dark corners of my thinking. I don't think that the plot is quite as strong as it was in the first book but that's a matter of comparing the excellent and the near excellent.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy After Before by Jemma Wayne.

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Buy He Wants by Alison Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Wants by Alison Moore at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy He Wants by Alison Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Wants by Alison Moore at Amazon.com.


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