Preview Reviews: The Fogging by Luke Horton

Preview Reviews: The Fogging by Luke Horton

A compelling tale of the slow disintegration of a relationship and the unravelling of a man.

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 own 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.

Read our Preview reviewer thoughts here:

It’s about a lovely couple who go on a holiday. Haven’t been on a holiday in a while. I would recommend this book to family and friends. Very interesting. Couldn’t put it down. A lot of people all around the world probably miss travelling, going to different countries, trying new things. – Suzanna, NSW, 5 Stars

The Fogging is a skilfully written story about Tom and Clara, both academics are taking a well-earned holiday. Tom, unbeknown to Clara, suffers with anxiety, a subsequent panic attack in flight impacts on their relationship for the holiday. We learn to appreciate the lengths that people will go to seemingly fit in and appear just like everyone else. When Tom and Clara travel together on holiday all senses are heightened and the reader can feel what Tom is experiencing. The details and observations made along the way are meticulous and had me feeling quite concerned for Tom’s wellbeing. The relationship between Tom and Clara is in the throes of disintegrating, befriending another holidaying family brings the potential for distraction and fun. The reaction of Clara to the fogging is a scary turning point, which seems to heighten the gulf between Clara and Tom. Horton has given me insight into anxiety and raised my awareness and sense of compassion for those who suffer in silence. The Fogging is a thought-provoking and beguiling tale. – Margaret, NSW, 5 Stars

The Fogging by Luke Horton is a tale of the mental disintegration of a man. Tom and Clara, two academics in their thirties take their first holiday in ten years, to Bali. Tom suffers from long term anxiety and has a panic attack during the flight but manages to keep it secret from Clara. At the resort, Clara meets Madeleine, a French woman and her partner, Jeremy, and their five-year-old son Ollie. The fogging refers to thick, cloudy gas used by the Bali resort to reduce the insect population. After the confusion caused by the fumigation, the relationship between Tom and Clara is never quite the same. The novel is told entirely from Tom’s point of view so the character of Clara is never fully explored. As the story progresses the relationship between Tom and Clara slowly erodes. This book looks at the fragility of the masculine psyche, a deteriorating relationship under the stress of mental illness, human relationships and isolation. This book is a worthwhile if unsettling read from a debut author. – Chris, WA, 4 Stars

Almost from the very first page, I found myself relating immensely to Tom, the protagonist and one of main characters. It was an emotional read for me, and I found myself comparing the characters to people in my own world, which made for a deep, personal connection to the story and made the characters step off the page, and come alive, so to speak. The story was easy to follow and the creative descriptions of where they were made me feel like I was there too, experiencing the same things. Having a small amount of main characters was something I enjoyed about the book, it gave focus where it was needed, though I do feel we as the readers could have known more details about the context behind situations, but I think that’s part of the intrigue also. I enjoyed The Fogging immensely, and once I started reading, found it very hard to put down. Thank you. – Sarah, TAS, 4 Stars

Found this an interesting book to read, Tom and Clara are the main characters on a holiday for the first time in years. In Bali the relationship starts to unravel, Tom is quite an anxious person and his mental state appears to worsen throughout the book, as I said an interesting book. – Deborah, NSW, 4 Stars

The Fogging is a well-written, compulsive read, which immediately drew me into the lives of its characters, particularly the protagonist, Tom, who struggles to overcome, or at least mask, his long-standing, debilitating anxiety sufficiently, to enable him to engage with others. There is a sense of impending doom throughout the story, largely the result of Tom’s view of himself and his expectation that things are not going to go the way he would like them too. Tom’s partner, Clara, is an equally complex personality, with issues of her own. Their long and fraught relationship forms the main theme running through the book, but there is some welcome, light relief when they manage to converge emotionally and navigate their way through some more pleasant experiences during their long-awaited holiday in Bali. However, the ‘fogging’, a customary spraying of insecticide in their hotel, seems to be a watershed moment in their relationship. Thanks to the author, publisher and Better Reading for the ARC. – Charlene, WA, 4 Stars

I found this book compulsively readable. Short, but managing to convey a lot in the sparing use of dialogue. It took me a couple of chapters to settle into the writing style, but as I got to understand Tom more, it made more sense and helped in my interpretation of his character. I am the reader who looks for the good, the redeemable, the hero in my MC’s. I will silently encourage them through their struggles and rejoice when things go well. Even when Tom revealed his apathetic character, I was still holding out for him. I wanted to be surprised and endeared by him. We would struggle to get along, me and Tom, if we knew each other. I felt for him, and although I can’t relate to his anxiety, it was convincingly presented by Horton through the slow release of details and recollection of seemingly minor incidents in Tom’s life that build the picture of who he is and why. Tom lets life happen to him, whether that be personally or professionally or romantically, and is not the person to chase after what he wants. And that is partly what has led him to this point. Despite all of that or maybe because of it, I couldn’t put this down and read it in an evening. I was so intrigued and while you can feel the intensity building, I couldn’t pick where it was heading next. It was quietly exciting even when the characters were frustrating. I finished the book thinking “why don’t they just TALK to each other?” – Britt, VIC, 4 Stars

If you’ve wondered what it’s like to inhabit the mind of a middle-class man largely dissatisfied with his decisions and the life he’s found himself with, then this book’s for you. Initially hesitant, as I progressed through The Fogging I found myself increasingly absorbed in Tom’s life and mind. Tom’s floater, someone who ends up in situations not necessarily by force of choice or will, but because he hasn’t the energy or drive to explore different paths. His partner Clara shares the same motivation – or lack thereof. Tom, Clara (and the reader) feel that the couple are on a holiday in Bali where the eponymous fogging occurs is because the trip happened ‘to’ them, not because of them. Even their friendship with Madeline and Jeremy appears to be initiated and maintained by the other couple. Although it was difficult to warm to Tom, I found myself drawn into his life. Particularly the stories about his childhood and family illustrated why, perhaps, he ends up the person he is. Not an easy read, at times an uncomfortable one, but ultimately I’m glad I took the time to explore and understand what it is like to walk in Tom’s shoes. – Kate, VIC, 4 Stars

Tom and Clara are on their first overseas holiday in 10 years to Bali, to try and salvage a relationship that is falling apart at the seams. Tom is a failing academic who is struggling with anxiety, yet isn’t willing to actually make the changes to help him overcome his crippling anxiety. I found this book hard to get into at first as I found the lack of quotation marks distracting, however, once I got used to the style of writing I enjoyed the book immensely. Luke Horton kept us wondering what was going to happen next the entire time, a very intriguing read. Thank you Scribe Publications and Better Reading for the opportunity to read and review this book. – Megan, SA, 4 Stars

This book skilfully explores the impact mental health has on a relationship when past hurts and worries about the future prevent a couple from enjoying the present. A clinical, yet tender, depiction of the cruel and consuming manacles of anxiety. – Kirralee, SA, 4 Stars

This book is an exploration of contrasts, set in the tropical beauty of Bali, a couple on holiday, but from the early scene of a panic attack on the plane, you know this isn’t an ordinary holiday caper. As the story unfurls you are not sure where it is heading, who in this couple you are blaming, how or why they are together in the first place or are they, in fact, the perfect matched pair. As the book progresses you feel the tension rise without really being sure why, but unable to stop reading to find out where it is heading. A compelling read. – Lisa, NSW, 4 Stars

Debut author Luke Horton offers us the decline of a man. At one point I observed that the title could be that of a horror story, only to find that by the time I read the final page, this was a pretty fair summary after all. An academic couple, Tom and Clara, a holiday in Indonesia. Through a series of backstories, we learn of their relationship through time and something of their relationships with others. At essence, though, this is Tom’s story and his character is carefully and compassionately drawn for us. Indeed, I feel indebted to Horton for his ability to convey the workings of this bloke’s mind. The menace of The Fogging lingers and I attribute this outcome to the author’s fine writing. Highly recommended. – Karen, VIC, 4 Stars

This was a tough read. It’s an intense interior narrative from a male protagonist with anxiety issues and a weird failing relationship. It hurt my head and triggered my own anxiety being in his head, and he just came across as not a nice guy. I truly don’t know how to review this, so I’m going straight down the middle, 2.5 stars. I can see how many people would enjoy it, the detailed descriptive writing. I guess it is an important story to tell, and it made some kind of impact on me, just not one I’m entirely comfortable with. – Hanadi, NSW, 3 Stars

I’m not really sure what to think about The Fogging by Luke Horton, but I am still thinking about it days after finishing the book!! Tom and Clara are difficult to like, but I was still drawn in and wanted the best for them. If you’re looking for a book that you don’t feel like you’ve read before, then give The Fogging a go. – Joanne, QLD, 3 Stars

A couple taking a flight to Indonesia, sets the scene for a romantic book, wrong! The flight is the beginning of a study into relationships, husband and wife, friendships and even relationships with self. Tom narrates the story however I found Tom a little hard to get to know, he seems anxious, self centred and a little obnoxious, but at the same time a quiet man. I didn’t warm to him at all. His wife Clara seems a nicer person, comfortable in herself, friendly and confident. Tom and Clara make friends with a couple and their young son in Indonesia and that’s when we feel something is going to happen that will change them all. The novel keeps us alert, waiting for something to happen, you know it will but it builds up like waiting for an afternoon tropical storm. Did I love the book? No, but I found it hooked you in and you just had to keep reading, there was a need to see what happens next. – Helen, VIC, 3 Stars

The Fogging by Luke Horton. If you are particularly interested in a person’s mental well being and how delicate we are, then this is a book that will intrigue you. The story follows the relationship and mental health of Tom, a thirty-something-year-old who decides to go on holiday with his girlfriend to Indonesia. During the story, Tom flashes back to various points in his life and comparisons that he makes between his life and others and how he handles various situations, usually in a negative or unconfident way. The relationship between Tom and his girlfriend is often put under the spotlight, particularly when his girlfriend becomes extremely friendly toward another guest at the hotel and her husband. This makes Tom question a number of things between him and his girlfriend and indeed the way he handles various situations. The character Tom is interesting in as much as how he deals with everyday life. He is quite clearly struggling with life and his relationship and this is evermore put into question when there is an incident at the hotel they are staying in. This book is really an honest reflection of how easy it is for people to perceive relationships and get bogged down into life comparisons with other people and how easy things can become unstuck. It looks at a topic that is not always easy to read or hear about with regard to mental illness in a person and how they deal with everyday situations and then placed into a scenario where one would normally relax (ie holidays with loved ones). A stark reminder of how delicate we sometimes can be. – Elaine, QLD, 2 Stars

The Fogging is a slow-paced descriptive novel which explores the relationship between Tom and Clara, a couple who have been together for a number of years and decide to go on a holiday overseas together. Tom suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks and the novel also focuses on episodes in his past that highlight this and his relationship with his family. This slowly builds a picture of how Tom came to be the person he is and effectively describes the stress and tension he feels as well as the fraying relationship with Clara. The introduction and subsequent friendship of a family staying in the same hotel allows Tom to slowly relax before the climactic ending. The narrative and prose throughout allows an insight into the debilitating effects of anxiety and the painful thoughts that permeate Tom’s life. – Karlie, SA, 2 Stars

The Fogging is an insightful and raw view of a relationship that is slowly coming unravelled… I found it hard to read because it does really hit your emotions (well it did for me). But I think that’s what Horton wanted you to feel… he writes with such realism and emotion. Especially the character Tom… from someone who suffers anxiety I didn’t enjoy reading this, but I think others would as it does really hold over you and make you want to read more about this relationship with Clara and Tom and how a holiday can change everything. – Samantha, QLD, 2 Stars

When I received Luke Horton’s novel The Fogging I was instantly drawn to the book by it’s the fantastic cover. I skimmed quickly over the blurb and thought that this book would be a thriller about a couple caught in a pesticide treatment whilst on holiday in Bali. I was wrong. Through Tom’s perspective, we get to know about his present, past and anxiety. Through the story, we see how Tom’s mental illness affects his relationship with Clara and how Tom’s anxiety causes the relationship to break down. This book didn’t grab me. For a short read, I found it hard going and I struggled to finish it. I felt the story was trying to build to a big event and then when the “Fogging” did occur it was quickly skimmed over and was a bit of an anti-climax. I also found that jumping into Tom’s past made me confused as to who the new characters were. I would have to try to establish whether we had been introduced to them before and how the chapter was relevant to the overall story. I am disappointed to say that the best thing about this book for me was the cover. – Ally, TAS, 2 Stars

The title of Luke Horton’s book The Fogging was an intriguing title which caught my attention. Told through Tom, one of two main characters, who had struggled with panic attacks and anxiety in the past. Now after ten years they reoccur while on a plane and through the story. Having travelled in previous years, Tom and his partner Clara are flying on their first holiday in many years. Tom hides his panic attack from Clara while on the plane, and throughout the holiday. Tom describes what he is feeling quite vividly and in detail which gives us a real insight into what he is experiencing. Tom coped with and tried to conceal what he was going through from those around him, particularly Clara. He recalls past travel stories he had with Clara and the effect on their relationship. Having heard Tom’s side throughout the book left a lot of unanswered questions about Clara’s part in their relationship story, her actions and reactions to Tom and other events in the story. I would like to read The Fogging through Clara’s eyes which would fill in a lot of blanks for me. The Fogging finally occurs and again reading Clara’s side of the story would be interesting and appreciated. – Gail, NSW, 2 Stars

The author skilfully places major characters so that their strengths, weaknesses and quirks of personality are sharply displayed. Placing one who fears flying beside another who finds a rough flight exhilarating highlights the profound differences between people who may have much in common. He also thoughtfully touches on individual perceptions through the eyes of the characters. The description of a woman who is strikingly attractive while not being a conventional beauty is very perceptive and gives the characters dignity. There are some bright, crisp word pictures, and the occasional rhythmic, poetic sentence. Unfortunately unrefined English expression hinders the narrative. The story is unnecessarily hard to read and tends to bump along rather than flowing. – Michelle, QLD, 2 Stars

I have read a number of books about people with major problems or “issues”. The most memorable are those by Khaled Hosseini, Gail Honeyman, Charity Norman and Jodi Picault. In nearly all of them, either the troubled person or the person most affected by them is likeable. In The Fogging, even the author, in his Q&A piece, declares that Tom is not a nice person. Neither, for that matter, is Clara or Madeleine. Hard to actually enjoy a book when nobody is nice. Furthermore, unlike the aforementioned authors, Luke has not woven a real story around Tom’s problems. I could sympathise with his problems and even actually relate to some of them but only a therapist could listen to what amounted to a long whine. I did not like the bad language, especially the use of c…. It was completely unnecessary. The ending was very abrupt with no explanation of Madeleine’s strange email or of Clara’s sudden departure. I am truly sorry but I cannot find anything good to say about this book. – Patricia, TAS, 1 Star

Thank you to Better Reading for the opportunity to read The Fogging by Luke Horton. Unfortunately this book wasn’t my kind of read. I don’t like being negative about a book, but I found it really hard to push through, it wasn’t very interesting, maybe I like a faster-paced book. – Judy, NSW, 1 Star

Reviews

The Fogging by Luke Horton: Your Preview Verdict

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12 August 2020

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              Synopsis

              A compelling tale of the slow disintegration of a relationship and the unravelling of a man.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 own 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.
              Luke Horton
              About the author

              Luke Horton

              Luke Horton’s writing has appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, and The Australian, and was shortlisted for the Viva La Novella prize. The former editor of The Lifted Brow Review of Books, he currently teaches creative writing at RMIT, and is a member of acclaimed indie-rock band Love of Diagrams. The Fogging is his debut novel, and was highly commended for the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2019.

              Books by Luke Horton

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