Alphabet: Book summary and reviews of Alphabet by Kathy Page

Alphabet

by Kathy Page

Alphabet by Kathy Page
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2014
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Simon Austen has the names people have called him tattooed all over his body. Dumb Cunt. Waste of Space. A Threat to Women. Murderer. Simon Austen has strangled his girlfriend. For the next thirteen years, Simon Austen will be serving life.

Barely out of his teens, his past a grim assembly of foster homes, Simon is cagey, reserved, and highly intelligent. He's been told he has trouble relating to women. But what kind of woman would want to relate to him? Determined to resolve his issues on his own terms, and at great personal risk, Simon begins writing illicit letters to women under assumed identities. And though short-lived, his letter-writing triggers a terrifying process of self-reconstruction. "Who is Simon Austen," he is forced to ask, and "who do his psychiatrists want him to become?" A jolting portrait of modern prison regimes, Alphabet is the story of a man's uncertain and often-harrowing journey towards rehabilitation.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This powerful novel is simply an epiphany." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Page's gritty and illuminating sixth novel, originally published in 2004, and shortlisted for Canada's Governor General's Literary Awards in 2005, follows Simon Austen, a convicted murderer, through a series of inner triumphs and small victories as he makes his way through the British penal system." - Publishers Weekly

"Offering an emotional read without sentimentality or easy, pat answers, Page (The Find ) missteps only in the occasional scenes showing Simon's counselors talking about him and analyzing his case, which removes us from the character's limited but compelling perspective." - Library Journal

"Sometimes novelists go too far – and sometimes they manage to demonstrate that too far is the place they needed to go." - Time Out (UK)

"Page captures the oppressiveness of the closed institution, the violence that always seethes beneath the surface … compelling … Page lifts the novel out of its didactic casing." - Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Alphabet is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of the year." - Sunday Telegraph, UK

"Page throws mixed-up hope into a world where only fantasies and delusions dare to grow… when I got to the end of Alphabet, I found myself longing for more." - Globe and Mail (Canada)

"Alphabet is a hopeful story, even though its subject, Simon Austen is a disturbed, inarticulate, illiterate murderer… Page's writing is tight…her depiction of prison life is believable and enthralling." - GEIST (Canada)

"A complex book, and splendidly written, Alphabet is an intensely compelling reading experience." - Edmonton Journal (Canada)

"Simon is real. Simon gets under your skin. You'll keep reading Alphabet because you'll want to understand how Simon got to Z from A… His attempt to win redemption is totally engrossing." - Times Colonist (Canada)

"It's not hard to guess what got Page onto the GG shortlist: sheer chutzpah." - The Weekend Post (Canada)

"Page brilliantly captures the brutality of prison life." - Scotland on Sunday (UK)

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Kathy Page is the author of seven novels, including The Story of My Face (longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2002), and The Find (shorlisted for the ReLit Award in 2011), as well as many short stories, previously collected in As In Music and Paradise & Elsewhere (Biblioasis 2013). She recently co-edited In the Flesh (2012), a collection of personal essays about the human body, and has written for television and radio. Born in the UK, Kathy has lived on Salt Spring Island since 2001.

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