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He Wants

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  270 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Retired teacher Lewis Sullivan always imagined living by the sea.

He lives instead in the Midlands village in which he was born. 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.

When a childhood friend appears on the scene, Lewis
Paperback, 182 pages
Published August 15th 2014 by Salt Publishing
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Until I actually manage to catch up with my reading challenge for 2017, I have decided to write shorter reviews for my next couple of reads than would usually be the case. Which really is ironical, as Alison Moore's second novel "He Wants" (coming after the uniquely ambiguous reading experience she gifted us in her undisputed masterpiece "The Lighthouse") deserves a studied analysis of some literary weight to do justice to the multi-layered depths she so deftly -- and effortlessly -- explore ...more
Annemarie Neary
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received an early copy of this book from Goodreads as a First Reads giveaway, but that hasn't influenced my review.

This is a taut and expertly controlled novel about convention, daring and desire. Tension is present from the opening line, with its intimation of what is to come. 'The front door is mostly glass, a pane as tall and wide as a man.' The chapter headings, signalling ever more extravagant wants, are an effective way of marking the pulse of a book that makes for compelling reading
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Longings, indecision, motivation, drive, anticipation. Moments and perspectives.

This author has such insight into the tic toc of human nature.

Many authors do but Alison seems to own a pause button and a magnifying glass.

I'm grateful and very ready for more :-) !
I highly recommend her work!
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I left this book both jubilant and heart broken. Wonderful.
Mike Finn

Whatever I wanted, it wasn't this clumsily constructed, overly contrived but largely empty story.

Judging from the critical acclaim this novel received, I'm in the minority in seeing this particular emperor as naked.

"He Wants" was The Observer Book of the Year in 2014, which asserted, Moore movingly mines the aching gap between aspiration and actuality. The Guardian called it "brave and rigorous. The Financial Times declared, Moore is a serious talent. Theres art here. Theres care.

My experience
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Slight, in several ways. This is a short novel that follows a small group of a characters in a small town in what seems like a small world. Not that theres anything wrong with such limited scope; but that is it, pretty much.

We follow Lewis, a retired teacher and widower in a small town in England, while he struggles with the many small inconveniences of a quiet life. (In the authors hands, these inconveniences becomes crises that imply much of What is Wrong with the country.) The life of Lewis
William Koon
Oct 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
The plot goes here and there and back again and lets double back even once more. The main character is an ordinary man we dont care about and nether does the author since she leaves him a commonplace and undeveloped. . Theres also a mysterious childhood friend who is a famous romance writer who is somehow a penniless bum on the run who has been in prison and has disappeared for the past 54 year. Details? We dont get them and further, we also dont care about these artistic failings, too. There ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Although I love Alison's writing style and her study of the minutiae of every day life juxtaposed with some shocking or unexpected actions, I was not gripped by this book in the same way as The Lighthouse. I will certainly be reading her future books however and the message I take from this book is not to leave the things you want to do for some time in the future!
Jay Hinman
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
The Lighthouse is one of the best works of recent fiction that Ive encountered, and yet reading this newer work I felt like I was reading a somewhat clumsy first novel that later gave way to something much better. Quite the opposite, as Lighthouse is from 2012 and He Wants 2015.

Moore is phenomenal at illuminating the emotional stuntedness of her characters, all very English and confused and often repressed. Yet this time by her focusing and jumping around multiple woeful characters, often with
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I reviewed Moores first novel, The Lighthouse, I described it as a study in loneliness. Everyone is lonely. And mostly unhappy. Im tempted to say the same about this book only Im not sure that lonely and unhappy are the right words. Old people often end up alone because everyone they know moves away or dies off and often they end up rattling around on their own in family homes one or two sizes too big for them and thats what we have here: Ruth is in her mid-thirties and married to John a ...more
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lovereading
A pre-publication review copy courtesy of

Fewer than 200 pages yet this book packs quite a punch. Carefully constructed, it never loses focus on its theme. The main character Lewis has spent 50 years yearning for something just beyond his reach, just failing to connect with others. He aspires to the freedom and adventure he thinks they have. The book charts his life to date and the significant incidents when his action or lack of action has dashed his hopes. The return of his
Elliott Cooper
Aug 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book, I picked it up because it was slim and the cover somewhat echoed that of a crime novel, I thought it would be a nice change to read something different. But I was mistaken, this is not really a crime novel. It wasn't fast paced or thought provoking, certainly not in a crime-classic sort of way.
However I did find it gripping in it's own unique way, it was interesting and certainly made me think. This novella is a kind of biography of old age, looking back upon
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2016-reads
Lewis, a retired Religious Education teacher, lives alone, a Tupperware of soup made from leftover vegetables dropped off each day by his adult daughter en route to her administrative job. He still thinks about Sydney, a schoolmate from many years ago whom he hasn't seen since they were 18. I loved Moore's writing style, which is witty and poignant and filled with just the right sort of details. Her varying use of the word 'want' throughout always brought me up short and made me notice what was ...more
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
ordinary and strange at the same time. I love the way it all comes together, but not quite. Withheld information a bit naughty at times, but on the whole well done. Still puzzled, in a good way. Poor old Lewis. Billy Graham, D H Lawrence, chemistry experiments, denial, Labradors, 1961, villages at night feature. It was all yellow.
Eleanor Fitzsimons
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love Alison Moore's dark, offbeat novels. This is the third I've read. She gets inside the heads of her quirky characters very well and takes us there too. This one describes a life unfulfilled with a brief redemption towards the end and includes an odd bunch of largely disappointed yet compelling people. I enjoyed it immensely.
Karen Mace
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. Since he's been a widower he still feels bound by routine and unable to live the life he dreamed of.

His daughter lives nearby and brings him soup everyday, despite the fact he never eats it, and she brings her own
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a beautifully written book. I loved The Lighthouse and this is good too, but somehow it didn't engage me as much.
I don't need lots of action, I like quiet books.
However, disappointment runs through the book and it just made me feel a bit dejected. I will read her again though.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Probably more like 4.5 stars.
Sue Warnes
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Didn't really get this, lots of loose ends and only just kept going with it.
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
What a strange little book. Enjoyed it though.
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this - although it was kind of confusing at first. Surprising, interesting, really enjoyed it.
N.J. Ramsden
May 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A dull book in which nothing much happens, either on a narrative level or a subtextual one, and though that may well be the point, it doesn't make for a satisfying or engaging read. Moore's prose has a sparse rigidity to it that suffers the same trouble as that of Magnus Mills, viz. the tedium erodes any sense of it being a book exactly so style is content, whatever, but I don't need paragraphs about a man putting his slippers on or sitting on his glasses, and the subplots, as far as they ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A carefully considered novel of regrets and memories, narrated through an ailing an unremarkable character who elicits sympathy by his very complacency.
Julie Mestdagh
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it
"He wants" is a book written by Alison Moore, author shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her other book "The lighthouse". Expectations were therefore high and as quite often happens with prize winning or prize nominated authors is disappointment just a matter of time. Yet this time I thought it would be different, as the cover story really got my attention. Lewis, a retired teacher, spends his days alone at home in his daily routine. Daughter Ruth comes and brings soup every day and on ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Honestly cant say that I really understood what the author was trying to accomplish with this book

This book had 4 interconnected main characters: a widow, his grown daughter, his elderly father and his childhood friend. The author used suspense to gradually reveal some of the characters back stories and the fact that they all had some sort of dysfunction in their lives.

Overall this book was very depressing because all four characters came across as lonely and isolated, and they were all
May 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, review-copy
I received a pre-publication review copy courtesy of

I think the publishers synopsis is a bit misleading. Lewis is not approaching retirement - he has already retired. He is looking back over his life and thinking about all the things he had wanted/wants/ does not want. It's a book about ageing and unfulfilled expectations. It jumps around mirroring Lewis thought processes as he remembers his childhood, his parents, his wife, his daughter and his friend Sydney.

He Wants is a
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I missed Alison Moore's debut novel, The Lighthouse despite it being Booker shortlisted and much read and discussed on book blogs. He Wants almost passed me by as well, but a considered and very positive review at Savidge Reads sent it to the top of my 'to read' list.
It's a thoughtful and moving study of loneliness, missed chances and family relationships set in a small, anonymous Midlands village. Alison Moore builds up the story in a series of layers, and as we move backwards and forwards in
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
2.5 stars He Wants didn't grab me the way The Lighthouse did. And, oh, I was so very much hoping He Want would!! :-(

This one was a little too quirky and unevenly told to hold my attention and make me want to reach for it often. For a slim novel, it took some time to get through because I was a very reluctant reader of it.

Each chapter has titles such as, "He Wants a Cup of Tea", "He Wants a Second Chance", "He Wants the Family Silver", etc. and each would contain a lot of nonsensical,
Anne Goodwin
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the signifiers of good fiction is the early clarification of what the main characters want and sending them on a journey where they will be continually thwarted in their search to get it, right? With each of the seventeen chapter titles flagging up something the characters either want or dont want, Alison Moore, in her second novel, seems on the surface to have taken this to heart. Lewis, doesnt want soup or sausages but, when he was a child, he wanted to go to the moon. Sydney wanted to ...more
Carol Peace
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was sent a prepublication copy of this book by for an honest opinion.
This is a short book but I am afraid I just didnt 'get' it. I sympathised with Lewis Sullivan who on nearing his retirment feels that he should have followed a more dramatic career and outlook on life. I sympathised that he doesnt really want the soup that his daughter bring every day and that he is fed up of going to the second favourite pub and when he see's his life from another persons view
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Born in Manchester in 1971, Alison Moore lives next but one to a sheep field in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border, with her husband Dan and son Arthur.

She is a member of Nottingham Writers Studio and an honorary lecturer in the School of English at Nottingham University.

In 2012 her novel The Lighthouse, the unsettling tale of a middle-aged man who embarks on a contemplative

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