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Quick Outline

Sadie Jones creates a dark and twisted depiction of 1950’s post-war Britain, revealing chaos and disarray lurking behind the closed, brightly painted doors of middle-class, pristine and rural Surrey.  Lewis Aldridge stands as an outcast amongst this system of respectable disorder, and whilst his neighbours uphold an unshakeable façade of honourable respectability behind which they hate and hurt, he can only break apart, destroying himself in an impassioned obsession to feel.

His reactions and behaviour, following the Second World War so closely, act as a living symbol for the shattered, war grazed Britain of that time. Whilst repairs are made to the physical, obvious casualties of war; the buildings, the gaping holes in roads; less notice is paid to the ongoing human suffering. And so, whilst the country is slowly rebuilt, the insistent message is that everything has been corrected, everything is healed and right. Meanwhile, the women drink to sustain their new-found boredom, the men beat the women to tame fresh rage and the children grow up afraid and full of injustice. But to one another they smile and laugh, and everything continues uninhibited.

Lewis, like the country, is broken. Aged ten his mother drowns in front of him whilst they picnic on a summer’s day. Elizabeth was both glamorous and enthralling, both father and son wrapped up in loving her. And so, when the one thing they both held in common disappears, there is no where for them to go together. Gilbert shuns his son and they live a mutilated life, Gilbert working hard and remarrying quickly; Lewis only returning home on school holidays, retreating further and further into himself. For a few years everything falls to quiet, rigid, underground disorder, until something inside Lewis snaps. He wears his pain, drinking and cutting himself. Running away, ruining and breaking things and people. He is sent to prison, but on his return he confronts the quiet, placid appearances of his old home and sets about revealing the fraudulent community for what it really is; undressing the years of empty façade and face, uncovering abuse and insistent hate.

A Picture Portrait

The Woods: The place where Lewis goes to escape, to feel better again. Although terrible things happen here, the woods reverse the corruption of the real world, and stand in contrast with the home, where only hate and self-loathing seems to grow. It’s almost a romantic idea of nature and human happiness being exclusively combined.

The Village Church: Attended every Sunday, the church is the center of hypocrisy within the community. Where the most respected villagers boast smiles and laughter, only to return home where everything slips.

 

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My Favourite Review…

Here is an extract of a review written by Rachel Hore for the Independent, the rest of it can be found here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-outcast-by-sadie-jones-785275.html

‘The claustrophobic, menacing atmosphere of Sadie Jones’s page-turning debut never lets up, and that’s admirable enough, but it’s more than narrative tension that makes the novel special. Her writing is deeply affecting because she uses her characters’ smallest gestures, words and thoughts to build immediacy. Alice will quickly “check her face” and the reader instantly visualises her looking in a mirror, feeling the anxiety that makes her do it. Appearance is a major theme in the novel; Jones vividly describes people’s looks and clothes, but only when she’s making the description work for its place in the narrative. There’s a long paragraph when Lewis observes Tamsin lusciously dressed up, but through it we share his growing appreciation and desire. Kit, on the other hand, is conscious that her own dress doesn’t fit; this expresses her feelings about herself.

Another theme concerns how this class at this period seem not to like their offspring. It’s chilling how many adult remarks to children here are not about feelings but instructions about dress and appearance. “You’ll spoil your frock.” “Where are your gloves?”

The Outcast is not flawless. The action of the second half, after Lewis’s return, is at times repetitive, and there’s a tendency towards melodramatic set pieces, but the quality of the writing and a desire to see justice done keep one reading avidly.

Lewis believes he’s become a dark and broken person. It’s only when he realises that everyone around him is like that too that he’s able finally to save himself.’

Criticism

At certain points in the tale Lewis’s anger seems slightly out, the continuous breaking of windows and tables a bit too maniac- super-hero. But this is a tale which certainly doesn’t drag, although dark and depressing, the ending is a perfect one which rights the balance between sad and happy to a perfect degree.

Love,

Zoe

4/5 Stars

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