An Englishman in the throes of an existential crisis travels to Germany in hopes of sorting out his life, but he finds himself inadvertently in the middle of a volatile marriage of two hotel owners.
After his wife unexpectedly leaves him, Futh decides to travel to his father’s home village in Germany to hike and clear his head. On his first night in country, he stays at a small hotel owned by Ester and Bernard, a couple trapped in a cycle of deceit, abuse, and jealousy. Bernard mistakes Ester’s taking care of Futh for signs of infidelity, and he develops a grudge before Futh leaves in the morning to continue his trip. As the days pass, Futh’s memories of his traumatic boyhood and fraught relationship with his father resurface like little windows into his troubled mind and habits, while Ester and Bernard circle one another in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. But when Futh returns to the hotel, he loses a beloved memento of his mother’s and, in his attempts to get it back, is pulled deeper into the twisted marriage between Bernard and Ester. Starkly written and suspenseful, this novel—shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize and published in the U.S. for the first time—is a slow burn of jealousy, anger, and anxiety that reads like a drama peeked at through a crack in a door. Moore’s (Death and the Seaside, 2016, etc.) prose is sharp and often sparse, while her characters are loathsome and sympathetic by turns.
Complex and thrilling, this meditation on the past is a gripping story of betrayal and its lingering effects.