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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL STORY
British writer Sadie Jones has given us an amazing debut novel, an achingly beautiful story of loss, love, and redemption. She astounds with her picture of 1950s England, a Surrey where emotions roil beneath a peaceful bucolic surface. With penetrating insight and scrupulously wrought studies she traces the characters as they develop. Her portrait of a young man who...
Published on March 14 2008 by Gail Cooke

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
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 anger. His father was a cold, selfish fish, but so what? He wasn't a monster. I found most of the characters trite, which is the main flaw of the novel. She certainly knows how to write, but needs to...
Published on July 10 2011 by Syd Lewis


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL STORY, March 14 2008
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Outcast (Hardcover)
British writer Sadie Jones has given us an amazing debut novel, an achingly beautiful story of loss, love, and redemption. She astounds with her picture of 1950s England, a Surrey where emotions roil beneath a peaceful bucolic surface. With penetrating insight and scrupulously wrought studies she traces the characters as they develop. Her portrait of a young man who almost perishes in a painful search to define himself is especially moving.

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. Kit is the youngest daughter who was a tag-along playmate in Lewis's childhood, often ridiculed by her older sister and ignored by the others. The Carmichael household is a dark one, harboring the secret of Dicky's domestic violence. "Dicky often hit Claire (his wife), it was a habit, and part of the pattern of the family, and it wasn't questioned between them at all."

Dicky's rage is soon vented on Kit as he beats her mercilessly, always slapping her hard across the face with an open hand so as not to leave any marks. He would beat her with a belt "until his arm felt quite tired."

Upon his return from prison Lewis finds no welcome or comfort in his home. "Very often Gilbert and Alice were fairly drunk by supper anyway, so it wasn't as bad as lunch, but sometimes the being drunk was worse - you could see what was underneath."

When Lewis learns of the abuse suffered by Kit he longs to rescue her, but feels he has no power to do so. Is it possible that one damaged individual can save another?

With lucid, affecting prose Sadie Jones carries us along to a startling yet satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family secrets and self-acceptance, April 4 2008
By 
Amy (Mississauga, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outcast (Hardcover)
This novel follows the painful childhood and adolescence of Lewis Aldridge, a terribly misunderstood young man who is the tragic and unfortunate scapegoat of his very British and very middle-upper class suburban London community. Raised by his father to be obedient and restrained in all circumstances, Lewis buries his emotions and learns not to feel the pain that engulfs him after the sudden loss of his mother. Lewis handles his grief by self-destructing and committing a crime that shocks the entire upper crust community. Psychologically fragile, Lewis tries to turn his troubled past around and re-establish a relationship with his father. A subplot explores the lives of the Carmichael family, whose daughters Lewis admires and tries to befriend in his clumsy and lonely existence.

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]
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Outcast, April 19 2013
By 
Joann Bidgood "Book Worm" (Dartmouth, N.S.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outcast (Paperback)
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~!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Manners, rules you could understand.", April 14 2008
By 
Walter Hypes - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Outcast (Hardcover)
Although not without its faults, this compelling melodrama, set in 1950's England centers on a young, troubled boy and his estranged relationship with his complicated father. Although connected by blood, there is little actual love, each ensnared in a disturbing alliance of denial and falsehood, their inevitable fracture caused by an untimely and sudden accidental death. What is seen on the top of Lewis and his father, Gilbert Aldridge's life together may be serene, but beneath there lurks a dark and angry battle for survival that gradually plays out against the rigid social mores of the time.

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.

Upon his return and faced with the prospect of finding employment, Gilbert signs on to work for his neighbour, the building magnate Dicky Carmichael, a course and angry man whose presence always seems to set Gilbert's teeth on edge. Although the prospects of making money in the post-war building boom looks positive, Gilbert's only real consolation is that he is grateful for the love of the clever and lovely Elizabeth, her wilful ways and her own way of looking at things, providing the perfect antidote to a life of hard and furious work.

But it is these essential and formative years that seem to be a precurser for what is to some, especially for Lewis. It is also an afternoon picnic in the woods down by the river when everything goes terribly wrong and life for Lewis changes forever, the devastating event unleashing a dormant anger within him. It is here by under the shade fo the weeping willows, the heat of summer almost stifling that Lewis is left to see his mother - her paleness, and then her form becoming merely a dark shadow where her head is, her body under water but not moving.

In the months afterwards, Lewis and Gilbert remain in a type of trategic limbo. Gilbert enters the world of cocktails and London parties, going from one occasion to another, discovering a new type of popularity, and eventually marrying Alice, a dependable but needy blond who seems to do nothing else but feed his ego. Meanwhile, neither father or son go about their lives ever mentioning Elizabeth or the events of that devastating day, the silence around her memory brittle and almost dangerous.

It is here that the plot of The Outcast takes an unusual turn, as author Sadie Jones involves her damaged protagonist ever more in the affairs of the Carmichael's and Dickie Carmichael's impressionable young daughters, Tasmin and Kit who find themselves ever more attracted to their tempestuous neighbour. But it's the connection that Lewis forms Kit that proves to be his ultimate undoing even as Gilbert is forced to shoulder the results of Lewis's truancy, the breaking of a boy's nose, the willful drinking, all of this embarrassment and publicness making him helpessly angry and at a loss to know what to do with his son.

Like a damaged bird, Jones plays out this broken young boy's journey amongst the English rich and priviledged. Lewis's life after Elizabeth is filled with very little love or affection as slowly he shuts emotionally down and is cast off from his family, and labelled as a trouble-maker by Dickie Carmichael, and the wider Waterford community. Throughout this novel, Lewis's voice is deliberately narratively flat, perhaps to reflect Lewis' emotionally closed vacumm, the story circumscribed by his strong capacity for denial - at Elizabeth's untimely death and at his place in the world of the Aldridges.

Indeed, his drinking and self-mutilation seems to insulate him from the complex realities of his family and from the responsibilties of life. Although somewhat cliched and predictable, especially during the final third, nevertheless readers will find this tortured story enticing with a narrative that is always compelling. Jones' reimagining of 50's upper-class British life adds a new dimension to the old standbys of misunderstood young men, ambitious executives, abusive fathers, and brittle but tenacious stepmothers, even as she brings the stulifying hyocracies and strictures of the time to life. Mike Leonard April 2008
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, July 10 2011
This review is from: The Outcast (Paperback)
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 anger. His father was a cold, selfish fish, but so what? He wasn't a monster. I found most of the characters trite, which is the main flaw of the novel. She certainly knows how to write, but needs to work on her character development.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life crumbling away, Sept. 6 2009
By 
I LOVE BOOKS (Italy) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Outcast (Paperback)
This is a depressing book, but a very well written one. A spare, straight forward prose that draws you in completely and makes it a page turner. The story (no spoilers here) revolves around Lewis, a 19 year-old who has just been released from prison. When he was very young, a terrible, traumatic event changed his life forever. He may be the central character but some others are very important too.

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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Loss and Redemption, Nov. 26 2010
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This review is from: The Outcast (Paperback)
I couldn't believe this is the author's first novel. I was not bored once. Jones's writing is stark, not frilly. Every word means something. I won't give away the plot, but it is the story of a young boy, Lewis, who has everything--a mother's love which renders every aspect of life delightful. Then he loses that--and loses all things wonderful in one day. He even loses a father's love--only because the boy is so like his mother. Friends, even the cook, whom he gloms onto, vanish in one fell swoop. Life goes from heaven to hell. But there is one person who understands. This person has always been around, but he doesn't notice her until he has grown up, been to prison, and royally screwed up his life. I thought the book was so sad--I asked myself, could I keep reading it? Yes, I had to. The character Lewis meant something to me. Maybe I saw a little bit of myself in him. Could no one see that he wasn't a monster? Yes, one person could see him as he was before his life unravelled. But this person had her own pain, and he had to help, even if it meant there was no redemption for him.
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The Outcast
The Outcast by SADIE JONES (Hardcover - 2008)
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