Observer Book of the Year 2014
Lewis Sullivan, an RE teacher at a secondary school, was approaching retirement when he wondered for the first time whether he ought to have chosen a more dramatic career. He lives in a village in the Midlands, less than a mile from the house in which he grew up. He always imagined living by the sea. His grown-up daughter visits every day, bringing soup. He does not want soup. He frequents his second-favourite pub, where he can get half a shandy, a speciality sausage and a bit of company.
But when a childhood friend appears on the scene, Lewis finds his life and comfortable routine shaken up.
In Moore’s inimitable, haunting style, this seemingly simple but in fact multi-layered narrative unfolds with compelling assurance. Moving between Lewis’s current life of cosy habit, his memories of childhood, and his aged father agitating away in a nursing home, plot twists thicken and weave with stealthily increasing tension. Always unexpected, sparely written and beautifully crafted, He Wants deftly dissects the themes of loneliness, anxiety, the weight of recollection and the complex nature of friendship and family ties. A surprising, lingering and intensely moving tale which reflects the prodigious talent of one of our most exciting novelists.
‘The best novels are the ones that leave you with a sense of yearning, and in He Wants, Alison Moore proves her mastery of the medium... As Lewis's desires are revealed, the reader is drawn into a compelling series of regrets, coincidences and reminders that life doesn't often bestow second chances... Moore's tightly wreathed prose and assured plotting ensure a bittersweet longing for more once the final page is turned.’ —Lynsey May, The List
‘How she achieves such big impact with such small ingredients is a mystery to me, but she does. She bloody well does.’ —Gav Collins, Gav’s Book Reviews
‘brave and rigorous’ —Rachel Cusk, The Guardian
‘Moore movingly mines the aching gap between aspiration and actuality.’ —Anita Sethi, The Observer
‘He Wants is a funny, touching, life-affirming novel about desire.’ —Anne Goodwin, Annecdotal
‘An elegant story.’ —Sue Magee, The Bookbag
‘As entertaining as it was gripping; Moore walks a tightrope between tragedy-cum-thriller and deadpan comedy and she does not fall.’ —Clare Fisher, Litro Magazine
‘It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how she creates such compelling (though often unlikeable) characters, turning their everyday doings into a page-turning story, the atmosphere quietly unsettling.’ —Marija Smits, For Books’ Sake
‘Moore is a serious talent. There’s art here. There’s care.’ —Sam Leith, The Financial Times
‘He Wants is an assured and confident second novel which deserves to be reread to fully appreciate its complexities. With sparse prose, astute descriptions, and subtle humour, Moore has cemented herself as one of my favourite authors.’ —The Perfectionist Pen
‘it is a short novel but needs no further chapters; its impact lies, in part, in its brevity and in its silences... There are dark aspects to He Wants and an intensity of emotion that will pull you in until the last page.’ —F.C. Malby
‘He Wants will easily be one of my books of the year... He Wants left me feeling both completely uplifted and utterly devastated, all at once.’ —Simon Savidge, Savidge Reads
‘Alison Moore is very good on modern alienation... She doesn’t so much lay bare a life as shine blinding pinpricks into its darkest corners.’ —Claire Allfree, Metro
‘It’s a quick, compelling read with real depth and heart, and I loved it.’ —Ali Hope, Shiny New Books
‘a witty and very moving novel’ —Jonathan Edwards, New Welsh Review
‘I really loved this book... I read it greedily and quickly; I had to force myself to slow down and savour it. And what she's so good at is conjuring a sense of atmospheric, quiet unease. I think it's the kind of book that will really get under people's skin.’ —Kiran Dass, Radio New Zealand
‘This book went where I didn’t expect it to go, and that’s what made reading it so memorable and an enthralling reading experience. It’s a fairly simple story centred around Lewis, a retired RE teacher who has lived his life doing the opposite of how he imagined things would turn out … He spends many hours looking back, at the things he regrets, the missed opportunities and it’s only when an old school friend appears back in his life, that his rebellious streak shows itself and he starts to live life a little dangerously and throws caution to the wind to see if the life he had always dreamed of would bring him the joy he craved. The attention to the little details throughout really make this short novel sparkle and I found it to be so touching and enchanting.’ —Books and Me