Sunday, April 27, 2008

BOOK: The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

in the pub '08,

The novel opens in 1957 with Lewis' return home after a stay in prison. We quickly flashback to when he was ten and his father was returning from the war, 1945 , to the small village outside London and follow poor Lewis's life up until his incarceration. The last third of the book rejoins the story after his release after prison. Interestingly, his years in prison seemed the most peaceful and safe.

Lewis and his mother would be described as a little odd, happy with themselves. They lived together while Gilbert was off in the war. His return is quite an upheaval, as returns from war can be. At ten, Lewis and his mother go for a picnic in the woods, but his mother doesn't return alive. This pivotal event changes Lewis, as in my opinion, no person cared for him or showed any affection. This loss of affection was particularly painful after the closeness to his mother. Gilbert quickly remarries a younger woman, Alice, and the neighbourly Carmichael's, including daughters Tamsin and Kit are entwined with Lewis and Gilbert, as well as the violent Dickie Carmichael, who is also Gilbert's boss. Drinking, abuse, and self-mutilation are all pushed under the rug, stiff upper lip, and then the requisite sending 'difficult' children away to boarding school.

So much happens here, an intrusive peek into the lives of upper middle class people in England, but also everyone as everyone has secrets and how well we hide them or deal with them can determine how functional our life appears. Lewis is a particularly sad case of a child shown no compassion. I was so frustrated at the way everyone dealt with him as if he were just a bother, or worse. Granted, he makes some bad decisions, but if ever there were a character who was given every bad break, it was him. I got very caught up in the emotions of the book and Lewis, and my heart just ached for him. A scene late in the book, with the village doctor who talks about Lewis' mother and then simply adds, 'I always liked you' was such a touching moment, one of the few people in the village to acknowledge him in any way. I read this very late into the night, because I had to finish it and see how it could end.

There is some buzz about this book; it's shortlisted for an Orange Prize, and I found it to be an engrossing read. There are some disturbing aspects to the novel, the secrets that are kept, but the overall neglect of Lewis and his emotional growth is what will stay with me.


  1. This sounds like one I would enjoy! Great review!

    Dumb question: Is PEI one of those places where everyone knows everyone? I just hired a young woman who said her mom is from PEI, but I didn't get the specifics. If she ends up being your cousin, I will pass out. =)

  2. jill - It reminded me of another book, or type of book, but I can't think which.
    And yes, PEI is exactly that type of place, and I could probably get some connection, but she's probably not a cousin of mine!

  3. What are the filmic aspects of this Novel?


Thanks for commenting, so nice of you to visit.

(I'll try without the letters for a while - so please dont be a spammer! Let's try no anonymous users)