Luke Horton’s debut, The Fogging, is a bittersweet exploration of a couple’s deteriorating relationship while visiting Bali, their first holiday in 10 years.
Tom and Clara are two struggling academics in their mid-thirties, who decide to take their first holiday in ten years. On the flight over to Indonesia, Tom experiences a debilitating panic attack, something he hasn’t had in a long time, which he keeps hidden from Clara. At the resort, they meet Madeleine, a charismatic French woman, her Australian partner, Jeremy, and five-year-old son, Ollie, and the two couples strike up an easy friendship. The holiday starts to look up, even to Tom, who is struggling to get out of his head. But when Clara and Madeleine become trapped in the maze-like grounds of the hotel during ‘the fogging’ — a routine spraying of pesticide — the dynamics suddenly shift between Tom and Clara, and the atmosphere of the holiday darkens.
Told with equal parts compassion and irony, and brimming with observations that charm, illuminate, and devastate, The Fogging dives deep into what it means to be strong when your foundation is built on sand.
This is a compelling tale of the slow disintegration of a relationship and the unravelling of a man. Having a relatively small cast of characters, Horton is able to refine and explore the relationships between these characters. The story is told from Tom’s perspective as he suffers from several mental health issues. These instances with Tom show Horton’s ability to give the characters depth and some really meaningful scenes that will definitely stay with me.
The story shows some creative irony with the beautiful backdrop of a resort in Bali, to the crumbling complexities of Tom and Clara’s relationship. The way that the scenery is described truly make you feel like you’re on vacation right there with them. I love that with every character, it’s very easy to picture yourself in their situation and making the same choices they make.
Horton weaves themes of mental health, particularly when it comes to the male psyche and masculinity. Tom’s state of mind is regularly disrupted with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s clear how much research, work and experience was put into this story.
I was hooked from the first page. This is a brilliant debut from Horton. If you want to hear more from Luke, read his fascinating Q&A.
The Fogging is a standout novel about love, fading relationships, and new passions. An incredible achievement for a debut. This is the kind of book that, no matter who reads it, they will get something out of it. I can’t wait to get my hands on whatever Horton writes next.