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.
Gilbert was demobbed in November and Elizabeth took Lewis up to
London to meet
him at the Charing Cross Hotel. Lewis was seven. Elizabeth and he got onto the
train at Waterford and she held his hand firmly so that
he wouldn't fall when he climbed up the high step. Lewis sat next to the window
and opposite her, to watch the station get small as they pulled away, and
off her hat so that she could rest her head against the seat without it getting
in the way.
The seat was itchy against Lewis's bare legs between his shorts and his socks and he liked the way it was uncomfortable and the way the train moved from side to side. There was a feeling of specialness; his mother was quiet with it and it changed the way everything looked. They had a secret between them and they didn't need to talk about it.
He looked out of the window and wondered again if his father would be wearing his uniform and, if he were, if he would have a ...
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).
Full Review (979 words).
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 ...
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