Hapless Futh is recently separated from his wife and is taking a vacation that he is ill prepared for—a walking trip in Germany when he hasn’t been hiking in decades. This holiday, like many things in his life, he has chosen because it reminds him of one of the few happy times with his father. Personally, he seldom picks up on nuances and misses many things.
After a series of odd encounters on the North Sea ferry and in the Netherlands, Futh arrives at the starting point of his walking tour—Hellhaus. There, a misunderstanding at his hotel results in his being ejected before breakfast. He has arranged his tour in a circle with his luggage being transported day by day to the next hotel, so he must return to Hellhaus.
As he proceeds on his tour, contemplating his mother, who left him and his father when Futh was a young boy, and the history of his marriage, we check in periodically with Ester, the landlady of the hotel in Hellhaus. Even though her husband is jealous, she occasionally sleeps with the guests. Years ago, she left her fiancé for his brother Bernard, but now she feels unappreciated.
These are sad, gray lives. Even so, this novel is oddly compelling, and my feeling of dread built with every step back toward Hellhaus. It is also elegantly spare in style.
I read this novel for my Booker project.