A mesmerizing portrait of 1950s hypocrisy and unexpected love, from a powerful new voice
It is 1957, and Lewis Aldridge, straight out of prison, is journeying back to his home in Waterford, a suburban town outside London. He is nineteen years old, and his return will have dramatic consequences not just for his family, but for the whole community.
A decade earlier, his father's homecoming has a very different effect. The war is over and Gilbert has been demobilized. He reverts easily to suburban lifecocktails at six-thirty, church on Sundaysbut his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert's wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.
Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she is dealt by her own father's hand. Lewis's grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to foresee the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.
In this brilliant debut, Sadie Jones tells the story of a boy who refuses to accept the polite lies of a tightly knit community that rejects love in favor of appearances. Written with nail-biting suspense and cinematic pacing, The Outcast is an emotionally powerful evocation of postwar provincial English society and a remarkably uplifting testament to the redemptive powers of love and understanding.
Many of Jones's characterizations are one-dimensional. Almost all the adults are cardboard representations of some character type: the distant father, the alcoholic mother, the bully, the abused wife. There are no surprises here; each acts as one would expect. The exception is the insight and depth with which Jones draws her protagonist, Lewis. Her development of this character is nothing short of brilliant. She manages to capture all the uncertainty and conflicting emotions inherent in teenagers in general, along with Lewis's particular anguish -- yet she does so without over sentimentalizing. She explains the impetus for his bad behavior, but does not justify it. Lewis is in pain, he's confused, but he doesn't come across as a victim. It's a fine balance, one that Jones achieves perfectly. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
A confident, suspenseful and affecting first novel, delivered in cool, precise, distinctive prose.
Starred Review. Set in post WWII suburban London, this superb debut novel charts the downward spiral and tortured redemption of a young man shattered by loss.
The Telegraph - Heather Thompson
Occasionally, her simplicity of style loses some of its subtlety (usually when Jones is writing about men) ..... These flawed characterisations underline the refinement of the rest of the novel; but it does seem a bit of a shame to expend so much delicacy on brutal beatings and tormented psyches.
The Independent - Hermione Eyre
This hotly-tipped debut certainly delivers. The prose is clean and clear; so disciplined and spare it verges on thin. Then, sporadically, a kind of fever comes over the novel, and we plunge into one dramatic episode or another: self-harm, incestuous seduction, arson, battery, drowning... These scenes are handled with great skill and conviction, but recur so relentlessly that you sometimes feel as if you were reading an extremely classy misery memoir – A Child Called It retold by Richard Yates, perhaps.
The Guardian - Catherine Taylor
A middle-class middle-England village in the 1950s is the setting for this controlled, insightful first novel, in which husbands commute to work in the city, depressed wives begin the cocktail hour earlier each day and domestic violence occurs in homes with impeccably manicured lawns. .... Comparisons with Ian McEwan are inevitable, but Jones's assured, compassionate writing is satisfyingly original.
The Times of London
Jones’s elegantly written debut novel brings to vivid life both her alienated and damaged protagonist and the small-minded community that condemns him.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Sarah Emotionally worn out from reading this excellent debut This book is excellent, I strongly recommend it. It packs some strong punches and leaves you emotionally reeling in places. I had to keep putting it down and taking a deep breathe before carrying on. And I did carry on each time, as it is a... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sidney Fallow It was . . . Strange hype and accolades for a book that brings new meaning to the expression "the passive voice". Have all these reviewers ignored or missed the almost pathological use of the phrase "It was . . ." Any writer worth his or her salt knows to avoid... Read More
The landscape in which The Outcast is set plays a
large role in the overall feel of the novel. Much of the
story takes place in the county of
Surrey, just south of London. Most of Surrey
lies in the "Green Belt" (a ring of rural land around London
protected from excess development), making it a popular
place of residence for those commuting into London who can
afford the high house prices. With a population of about
1.1 million, Surrey is the most populated rural country in
England, but there is still plentiful
open space and large areas of woodland. In fact, Surrey
is the most wooded county in England, with over 1/5th of the
land covered by woodland including some of the oldest
woods in England. Foot and bridle paths wind their way
through much of the terrain, making walking and horseback
riding popular pastimes, both with locals and those
seeking a break from London. ...
This is the story of John Devine stuck in a small town in the eerie landscape of Southeast Ireland, worried over by his single, chain-smoking, bible-quoting mother. Suffused with family secrets, eerie imagery, black humor, and hypnotic prose, John the Revelator is a novel to fall in love with and an astounding debut.
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