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The Outcast: A Novel Paperback – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Riveting…A superb debut novel about repression, rebellion, and moving on…The tension in THE OUTCAST is palpable and sensuous, beating loudly beneath the tranquil surface of Jones’s calm prose, and Lewis never disappoints in his fight for an ‘after’ that is happy and shame-free.” (Elaina Richardson, O magazine)

“With her lush writing and tantalizing sense of setting and detail, Jones has written a novel that stands apart from rote imitation, and...offers the welcome promise of a literary career of originality and distinction.” (Boston Globe)

“One of the more subtle of the…hot debut novelists…this season” (New York Sun)

“An arresting story” (Washington Post Book World)

“Beautifully delicate...ever more compelling as Jones builds in a palpable sense of suspense.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A superb debut novel…Jones’s prose is fluid, and Lewis’s suffering comes across as achingly real.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061374040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061374043
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sadie Jones's first novel, THE OUTCAST, was published to wide critical acclaim and won the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain. It was also a finalist for the prestigious Orange Prize, as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. A year later, she published her second novel, SMALL WARS, a tale of love, war, and honor, again to impressive critical praise. THE UNINVITED GUESTS is her brilliant third book, a complete departure from her earlier novels, and a small masterpiece. Sadie Jones lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Diane on July 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This story takes places in the 1950's in England, though much of the angst portrayed is just as common place today, no matter where you live.

We meet Lewis Aldridge at the beginning of the story, he is 19 years old and just out of prison for setting fire to a church. He is hoping for a new chance at life, a new beginning, but things are off to a rocky start with his father, right from the beginning.

The story then reverts back to Lewis' childhood. He is a happy though quiet child who enjoys his mother, Elizabeth's, company. Elizabeth is an outcast of sorts in that she tends to drink too much and is a free spirit. When her husband, Gilbert, returns from the war there is a shift in patterns at the house. They are expected to behave in a certain way and tend to him. It is obvious from the start that Gilbert is cold and distant from his son. When a tragic incident occurs and Lewis has to return home, without his mother, things get worse for Lewis and the strained relationship between father and son continues to deteriorate.

As time continues, Gilbert, the small community and even Lewis' new stepmother all consider him to be damaged. Lewis becomes even more aloof and begins to cut himself.

Kit Carmichael is the young daughter in an influential family. Her dad just happens to be Gilbert's boss as well. Kit has always liked Lewis and she wants to help him. She has her own problems to deal with in her family but she is always in Lewis' corner. Kit is actually somewhat of an outcast herself and does not agree with most of her family's observations.

When Lewis completes his stint in prison and does return home, he and Kit decide to change their situation and break free from their lives as they know it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sadie Jones debut novel The Outcast haunts me still, days after finishing it. The novel delivers a story of love, loss, and redemption as a result of a series of situations that couldn't be helped and were no one's fault really-but irrevocably changed lives.

It's 1957 and 19-year-old Lewis Aldridge has just been released from prison. The crime was setting fire to a church. He heads to his family home simply because he has no where else to go. He's met at the door by his stepmother, Alice, who cheerfully greets him. His father, Gilbert's greeting is different. He demands Lewis drive with him to the church, to see that it has been `fixed.' Lewis is silent. The stage is set; Lewis may have hoped for a new beginning, but already things are not looking good.

We view Lewis' childhood as a flashback. His father recently returned from the war and while Lewis is happy that his father is home, he really doesn't know him. The close relationship Lewis and his mother shared while Gilbert was gone, changes. During a picnic at the river, Elizabeth, Lewis' mother drowns-and suddenly everything changes for Lewis.

Gilbert remarries within a short period of time and neither Gilbert nor Alice, the new wife, can reach the steadily retreating Lewis. The people of the community avoid Lewis, and he continues to withdraw, his anti-social behavior increasing. Two sisters, Tasmin and Kit (daughters of Lewis' boss Dicky Carmichael), are the only people who haven't ostracized Lewis.

But there is a dreadful secret in the Carmichael house, and when Lewis discovers it, he feels powerless to change things. The question is simple: can the damaged Lewis help another damaged soul?

The Outcast will leave you breathless. The characters are rich, full-bodied and well-developed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ELI (Italy) on June 9, 2009
Format: 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 ½ stars, well done to the author.
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