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He Wants by Alison Moore

He Wants

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This is an evocative novel about a soon to retire teacher that cleverly interconnects snapshots of his childhood and his life since but drawn to the front of his mind by events and thoughts in the here and now and particularly on the unexpected encounter with an old school friend, Sydney. Lewis feels unfulfilled as he approaches retirement, believing now, that his life would have been different if he'd chosen a more dramatic career. In each chapter we hear his thoughts; what he wanted, what he still wants but has never quite managed to grasp and what he's achieved and what he'd like to achieve. With simple yet eloquent writing from Man Booker shortlisted Alison Moore, the author describes relationships, much like any other, yet the focus is very much on unfulfilled dreams, wishes, desires. There are times you might feel a little frustrated by Lewis and want to shake, to shout, to implore him to get out and live his life. Whether he does or doesn't, only the reader will know but rest assured the ending will surprise.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Sue Broom - 'Fewer than 200 pages yet this book packs quite a punch...I loved this beautifully written story and cannot recommend it highly enough.' Read full review >
  • Mary Gibson - 'Subtle literary references are threaded through this elegant novel and Alison Moore has created  a remarkable character in the apparently unremarkable Lewis.' Read full review >
  • Andrea Dean - 'This very thought provoking novella invokes pity and encourages the reader to always sieze the moment.' Read full review >
  • Judith Smith - 'A thought provoking and well observed book.' Read full review >
  • Sharon Matthews - 'A story about a retired man in his early 70’s who meets an old friend and what happens.' Read full review >
  • Alison Layland - 'A surprisingly page-turning read with hidden depths.' Read full review >
  • Laura Anne Paton - 'For a novella Alison Moore’s new work certainly packs a punch!' Read full review >
  • Margaret Freeman - 'A bleak tale of a man whose life did not turn out as he expected or wanted.' Read full review >
  • Carol Peace - 'A deeper look into a unusual life.' Read full review >
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'The Lighthouse by the same author was brilliant.  I have not enjoyed He Wants anywhere near as much.' Read full review >
  • Alison Burns - 'I cannot think of any book I have read which is more misrepresented by its back page blurb.' Read full review >
  • Judith Curtis - 'A compelling, poignant and funny tale about finding the courage to live the life of your dreams.' Read full review >
  • Clare Topping - 'I loved this book...It’s an easy, short read, but pulls you in wanting to know where the story is going next.' Read full review >
  • Jayne Burton - 'I am rather baffled by this book.' Read full review >
  • Ruth Carson - 'a good, easy read which could be devoured in one afternoon.  I'd definitely recommend it.'  Read full review >


He Wants by Alison Moore

Lewis Sullivan, an RE teacher at a secondary school, is approaching retirement when he wonders 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. When an old friend appears on the scene, Lewis finds his routine and comfortable life shaken up.


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 * a witty and very moving novel -- Jonathan Edwards * New Welsh Review * It's a quick, compelling read with real depth and heart, and I loved it. -- Ali Hope * Shiny New Books * 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 * 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 * 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 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 * Moore is a serious talent. There's art here. There's care. -- Sam Leith * The Financial Times * 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

* 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 * an elegant story -- Sue Magee * The Bookbag * He Wants is a funny, touching, life-affirming novel about desire -- Anne Goodwin * Annecdotal * Moore movingly mines the aching gap between aspiration and actuality. -- Anita Sethi * The Observer * brave and rigorous -- Rachel Cusk * The Guardian * 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 * 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 *

About the Author

Alison Moore

Alison Moore's first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Her shorter fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives near Nottingham with her husband Dan and son Arthur.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th August 2014


Alison Moore

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Salt Publishing


192 pages


Literary Fiction
Family Drama
Relationship Stories
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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