1957, and Lewis Aldridge is travelling back to his home in the South of England. He is straight out of jail and nineteen years old. His return will trigger the implosion not just of his family, but of a whole community.
A decade earlier, his father's homecoming casts a different shape. The war is over and Gilbert has recently been demobbed. He reverts easily to suburban life - cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays - but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert's wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.
Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she has been dealt by her own father's hand. Lewis's grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to predict the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.
As menacing as it is beautiful, The Outcast is a devastating portrait of small-town hypocrisy from an astonishing new voice.
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About the Author ~ Sadie Jones
Sadie Jones was born in London. She grew up in a creative environment: her father is the Jamaican poet and screenwriter Evan Jones, and her mother was an actress. As her friends took up their various university places, Sadie worked in a variety of jobs. After travelling, she settled in London and spent several years as a screenwriter, before writing her first novel, The Outcast. Sadie is married and has two children.
Exclusive Amazon.co.uk Interview with Sadie Jones
What is The Outcast about?
The Outcast is about a boy called Lewis - his childhood and adolescence – as he grows up in the stultifying world of the home counties in the late forties and fifties. It is an everyday tale of drunkenness, violence and a fair amount of sex, set amongst the well-brought-up professional classes. It is also a love story.
What inspired you to write it?
The idea of a boy coming out of prison and trying to fit into a community that is itself corrupt was the first thing that came to me. I wanted to write an Oedipal story, with iconic characters, about what the nature of what it is to belong, and injustice. I set it in the fifties because I have always been very attracted to the books and films of that time.
Who are your literary influences?
It’s difficult to think in terms of being influenced, because when you write you try to find your own voice and forget those of other writers, but I must in some way be a product of books I’ve loved. My favourite writers are Hemingway, Capote, Salinger, McEwan and Dostoyevsky.
If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?
It would be The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoyevsky, because it is a book that tells a riveting story and is profoundly insightful about human nature. Dostoyevsky has an undeserved reputation of being sort of turgid, but nothing could be further from the truth of this book. He relishes the events he discloses and has no prissiness – he gets in the mud with his characters.
What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?
It’s very hard; I only know what works for me, which is planning, structure and hard work. I have found that whenever I write thinking I’ll sort some lingering doubt out later, I generally run into trouble. If you can’t answer every single question about your story, then people will be able to tell. Also, try not to get too tied up in whether or not it’s any good, or what will happen to it when it’s finished – all of that can be paralysing.
Reviews for The Outcast
An assured voice, a riveting story, and an odd, wrenchingly sympathetic protagonist. I would never have imagined this was a first novel. Lionel Shriver
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 1950s 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
I much admired The Outcast. Sadie Jones tells her story using minute details to convey the apparent ordinariness of her characters' lives. But from the choreography of these walking, smiling, drinking people, from their emotional repression and their children's deprivation, she conjures an atmosphere of menace and suspense that erupts into violence and tragedy. It is an impressive debut for this talented new novelist. Michael Holroyd
Sadie Jones is an important new voice. She writes in beautiful prose of terrible events, demonstrating how love denied brings brutal consequences. She conjures the repressive social climate of the 1950s with awful accuracy, and explores the hearts and minds of young people with forensic skill. A great stylist and fine storyteller. Joan Bakewell
One of Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime reads for February, Jones’ story is imbued with brooding atmosphere and drama. Understated and elegantly narrated with attention to period detail, this is a gripping love story with a twist. If you liked Atonement by Ian McEwan, you’ll love this. Harper’s Bazaar (Feb issue)
A wonderfully assured first novel. Guardian
The prose is elegant and spare, but the story it reveals is raw and explosive... Devastatingly good. Daily Mail
The Outcast grips from page one... Jones has captured the stultifying morals and mores of Fifties English middle-class life with satisfying accuracy. Publishing News
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...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. KirkusReview:
`the most powerful novel I've read in a long time - Sadie Jones writes with startling sensitivity...beautifully written'
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