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The Outcast Paperback – Mar 10 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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 war is over, and Lewis Aldridge is getting used to having his father, Gilbert, back in the house. Things hum along splendidly until Lewis's mother drowns, casting the 10-year-old into deep isolation. Lewis is ignored by grief-stricken Gilbert, who remarries a year after the death, and Lewis's sadness festers during his adolescence until he boils over and torches a church. After serving two years in prison, Lewis returns home seeking redemption and forgiveness, only to find himself ostracized. The town's most prominent family, the Carmichaels, poses particular danger: terrifying, abusive patriarch Dicky (who is also Gilbert's boss) wants to humiliate him; beautiful 21-year-old Tamsin possesses an insidious coquettishness; and patient, innocent Kit—not quite 16 years old—confounds him with her youthful affection. Mutual distrust between Lewis and the locals grows, but Kit may be able to save Lewis. Jones's prose is fluid, and Lewis's suffering comes across as achingly real. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Set in post-WWII suburban London, this superb debut novel charts the downward spiral and tortured redemption of a young man shattered by loss. . . . Jones’s prose is fluid, and Lewis’s suffering comes across as achingly real.” Publishers Weekly
“A confident, suspenseful and affecting first novel, delivered in cool, precise, distinctive prose.” Kirkus
“[Sadie Jones] writes with shimmering intensity about Lewis’s struggle for redemption. She is particularly strong on atmosphere. . . . Jones uses small, startling phrases to convey depths of passion and information and she can make seemingly innocuous passages radiate beauty.” Sunday Telegraph
“Reads like a thriller, the tension and menace built expertly. . . . The two main characters, Lewis and Kit, are skillfully delineated and this is a powerful, promising first novel.” Financial Times (UK)
“The prose is elegant and spare but the story it reveals is raw and explosive. . . . Devastatingly good.” Daily Mail (UK)
“A wonderfully assured first novel.” The Guardian
“Jones’s elegantly written debut novel brings to vivid life both her alienated and damaged protagonist and the small-minded community that condemns him.” The Times (UK)
“In the tradition of Atonement and Remains Of The Day but in her own singularly arresting voice, Sadie Jones conjures up the straight-laced, church-going, secretly abusive middle class of 1950’s England. The Outcast is a passionate and deeply suspenseful novel about what happens to those who break the rules, and what happens to those who keep them. I loved reading this wonderful debut.” —Margot Livesey
“An assured voice, a riveting story, and an odd, wrenchingly sympathetic protagonist. I would never have imagined this was a first novel.” —Lionel Shriver
"Sadie Jones displays rare skills in her debut novel. The story of a troubled young man in post-WWII suburban London is heartbreaking and wonderful. The book evokes both the best emotions of Catcher in the Rye and the spirit of quiet rebellion of The Razor's Edge, with characters who are well written and real. I love this book." --Brooke Raby, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington
“Sadie Jones’s deliberate pacing and sometimes menacing tone–even if nothing much seems to be happening–provides her tale with its addictive mood. . . . Jones creates such a sense of impending doom that it’s nearly unbearable. . . . Fireworks are inevitable. When at last they come, they relieve the pent-up narrative tension quite gloriously, leaving us cheering our bruised outcast.” –Toronto Star
“Sadie Jones is in total control of the material. . . . With immense compassion, she expertly conveys the flood of relief that comes when a blade cuts through numbness to draw blood and pain. . . . The story is powerful, and the author has big talent.” –NOW (Toronto)
“An amazingly accomplished first novel . . . Jones has produced a taut coming-of-age novel with fresh flair.” –The Edmonton Journal
“An elegant, subtle, haunting novel that stayed with me long after I finished it. Sadie Jones has a long literary future ahead of her.” –Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring
“It’s not often that a debut novel lands with such poise, grace and artistry, yet laced with a simmering, haunting malevolence. . . . The Outcast is a dark, menacing tale of the hidden, abusive nature of the Brit mercantile elite of a half-century ago. It is a taut tale of transgression and hard-won redemption, making Lewis Aldridge an unlikely but strangely likable hero, and by a writer making a muscular debut.” –The Hamilton Spectator
“Mesmerizing. . . . [the] prose is reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence and full of marvellous touches.” –The Vancouver Sun
“Jones recognizes the power of the plain fact of things, and, as do the best practitioners of this style, excels at description when her precision allows implication to flourish in the silences.” –The Globe and Mail
“[W]hat sets this novel apart is the author’s technical skill. Trained as a screenwriter, Jones brings a dramatic arc to every scene, while her restrained prose renders the repression and sublimation at this novel’s core into something combustible.” –Georgia Straight
“With her lush writing and tantalizing sense of setting and detail, Jones has written a novel that stands apart from rote imitation, and The Outcast offers the welcome promise of a literary career of originality and distinction.” –The Boston Globe
“[The Outcast is] consistently interesting. Jones’s portrait of the claustrophobia and conformity of 1950s England is sharp and assured, a convincing illustration of the dangerous consequences of a muzzled society.” The New York Times
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The Outcast opens as 19-year-old Lewis Aldridge is released after serving a two-year prison term for setting fire to the village church. He goes home as, in truth, he has nowhere else to go. He's hoping for a new beginning but that is not to be.
Lewis's childhood is described in a flashback to when he was 10-years-old and adapting to his father, Gilbert, being home again after the war. Prior to that time Lewis and his mother, Elizabeth, enjoyed a happy, loving relationship. She doted on him and he returned her affection. Always a shadowy figure, Gilbert, once again takes his place in the home yet remains a puzzlement to the boy.
Soon a dreadful tragedy occurs that sends Lewis into a horrific spiral of isolation, violence, and self-mutilation. Elizabeth drowns on what had begun as a happy river side picnic for Lewis and his mother. Gilbert is little solace to the boy and remarries within a year. Alice, his second wife, knows little of how to reach Lewis who is ostracized by his childhood friends. Riddled with self-hatred his behavior becomes increasingly anti-social, and he withdraws even deeper into himself.
He is virtually shunned by other villagers save for Tasmin and Kit, daughters of Gilbert's employer, Dicky Carmichael.Read more ›
After two years serving in Brixton Prison, Lewis Aldridge never expected to have a happy homecoming when he finally arrives back in the bucolic village of Waterford, situated deep within the Home Counties of England. Even as his step-mother, Alice lovingly prepares his room for him, Lewis assures himself that he's going to make a promise and reassure his father, Gilbert that this time, things will be very different.
Perhaps these seeds of doubt and uncertainty were sown back in 1945 when Lewis led a priviledged and rather isolated existance with his mother Elizabeth, both content to live in a type of emotional and physical vaccum with only each other for company. But when World War 2 grinds to a hault and Gilbert returns, Elizabeth hopes that now that her husband is back they can finally be a proper family and hopefully make a fresh start.
But for Lewis, post-war life with his father seems strangely flat and difficult, the sight of Gilbert constantly unfamiliar and also strangely disturbing. He finds his father's maleness oddly threatening - yes, he is exiting, and there to be adored, but he is also quite foreign and his return changes the fragile balance of the house.Read more ›
This is a book about dysfunctional families and the secrets that children keep in order to survive in an abusive home. Author Sadie Jones includes several surprising plot twists that keep the reader wondering what troubles her characters must deal with next. Jones' climactic and clever ending suggests that perhaps the outcast is not who he seems to be at the conclusion of this excellent novel. [Amy MacDougall]
The setting is the beautiful English countryside in the 1950's. Behind the façade, the local (upper class) community is often less than respectable. Behind the façade, the smiles, the cheers, everyone has a personal demon to deal with. Lewis especially, but certainly not only. After he is released from prison (and before that too), most people distrust and dislike him openly. He does not seem to belong anywhere any longer. Life starts crumbling away and not only his. His family has an essential part in the story, as well as some of his neighbours. Peripheral characters in the background are also extremely fitting, meaning that everything and everyone perfectly conveys the sense of false morality, false rectitude lingering all the time. The question is, will something happen to shake and rattle "things"? You bet it does. A subtle tension is felt all the time and it is an escalation of distraught feelings, delivered by a simple, clear narrative. You FEEL for those who suffer, and wish it would stop. And you keep your fingers crossed for something to go well.
A distressing but extremely engaging novel, my true vote would be 4 ' stars, well done to the author.
Most recent customer reviews
A good insight into a more conservative time and place. The book serves to reveal how good intentions can lead to misery and loss of hope. Read morePublished 2 months ago by K. Rainbird
Best book I have ever read~!!! I highly recommend~!! Well written, engrossing plot~ You'll remember the story long after you've closed the book. This is a keeper~!!Published on April 19 2013 by Weezie From Dartmouth
The pacing of this novel is marvelous and I found it a real page turner. But I could not relate to the central character, Lewis Aldridge, and was left puzzled by his rage and... Read morePublished on July 10 2011 by Syd Lewis