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The Outcast [Hardcover]

Sadie Jones
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

7 Feb 2008

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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (7 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701181753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701181758
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sadie Jones is a novelist and screenwriter who was born and brought up in London. Her first novel, The Outcast ('Riveting', Lionel Shriver; 'Devastatingly good', Daily Mail) was the winner of the Costa First Novel Award. It was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize and was a Richard and Judy Summer Reads Number One bestseller.
Her second novel, Small Wars, ('Outstanding', The Times; 'One of the best books about the English at war ever', Joel Morris), was longlisted for the Orange Prize.
Her third, published in 2010, was The Uninvited Guests. (" once a shimmering comedy of manners and disturbing commentary on class... a brilliant novel." Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder. 'Delightful, eerie novel ... puts one in mind of Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black ...' The Daily Telegraph.)
Her most recent is Fallout, which will be published in May 2014. Sadie is married to the architect, Tim Boyd, and they live in West London with their two children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 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. Kirkus


"An assured voice, a riveting story, and an odd, wrenchingly sympathetic protagonist. I would never have imagined this was a first novel." (Lionel Shriver)

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, but draws you in! 3 Nov 2008
Lewis arrives back from prison in 1957 now at the age of 19 and of course that has me wondering what he went to prison for. Time then reverts back to a much younger Lewis and follows his childhood tales which include an extremely traumatic event, which changes Lewis to a quiet, withdrawn little boy that it appears nobody really understands.

The book moves forward in time and we find out why Lewis was in prison. Lewis appears lost with himself and with the opposite sex, but is drawn to differing girls/women that may be able to fill a small part of his needs. Lewis' family and their neighbours are very much central to the story and they all seem to carry so many demons within them. Kit is a neighbouring young girl that has always been drawn to Lewis and she feels she understands him the most, but he tends to cast her aside as he feels she is not for him. The community in general takes against Lewis for various reasons and Lewis feels in some way he must fight back after hurting himself physically and mentally for so long.

I found this a very difficult book to describe in terms of what happens as I didn't want to give away any spoilers, as I feel it's a book that just needs to be read and absorbed. One cannot help feel so sorry for Lewis and want to shake everybody around him so that they can see what he is going through. However everyone in the book does appear to be suffering in various ways. I feel that this was an exceptionally well written novel that is dark, disturbing, distressing and depressing, but at the same time a most wonderful, colourful, absorbing read. As I was reading it I felt things were going from bad to worse and it seemed as if Lewis was doomed to fail in anything he tried to achieve.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not flawless but a compelling read 11 Feb 2009
By Tracey
It's been a long time since I found a book so hard to put down. The Outcast is a truly compelling read and Sadie Jones a very gifted writer. Her style is deceptively simple - spare prose which manages to convey an awful lot. The way she draws her characters by going into minute detail about their everyday actions is particularly effective.
Lewis is an interesting and believable protagonist - a very damaged young man who doesn't get the help and understanding he needs because this is the Stiff Upper Lip Fifties. How well Sadie Jones conveys that horribly pent-up feeling. However, I do wonder whether the unbearably hot weather (as others have said, very like Atonement) which mirrors and exacerbates the stultifying atmosphere is a bit of a cliche. If she'd set her story to boringly average weather and still maintained the sense of represssion, that really would have been clever.
Two things stop this from being a five star novel. Firstly, Sadie Jones is a screenwriter and one or two scenes (particularly the crucial Church scene at the end) are over-theatrical. They'll work very well in the inevitable film or TV adaptation, though. Secondly, a couple of the characters - especially the relentlessly dreadful Dicky Carmichael and his vacuous daughter Tamsin - veer dangerously close to caricature. While I've no doubt that the Fifties upper middle classes were buttoned-up, it would have done no harm to introduce a little more light and shade here.
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138 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oppressive, claustrophobic and OUTSTANDING! 23 Jun 2008
It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to describing this book.

The story is set over a roughly ten year period and involves Lewis Aldridge who in the prologue is seen coming home after a spell in prison, we don't know why he has been there or what circumstances drove him to commit a crime but this just merely sets the scene for the next three parts of the book, as we discover why Lewis has been incarcerated and trapped not just in prison but in his short life.

Lewis background is filled in and we gradually come to know and meet all the characters. Gilbert Lewis' oppressive father who seems to think that by not talking about events means you will not have to deal with them. Elizabeth, the mother of Lewis, who hides in alcohol and who adores him and spoils him up until the day she tragically loses her life. Lewis grief sets off changes, event after event which affects everyone. Alice, the stepmother who is not stereotypical stepmother; evil, but weak in many ways, and I felt less empathy for this character, who made me want to scream, there is so much she could have done to help Lewis and stop things spiralling but she hid in her room, in alcohol and behind her new husband.

The Carmichaels are the major neighbouring family who the Aldridge's socialise with in their stuffy manner of class and system in the 1950s. Their youngest daughter Kit, is the other trapped character within this book, who is trying to escape the fact that she has fallen in love with the local bad boy `Lewis' but also her violent father, Dicky who seems to have control over everyone, either by force and brutality or what and whom he knows. Justice will prevail in the end for the reader, and a relief it was.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars harrowing but compelling 5 Feb 2009
I picked this book up to read on a long flight and couldn't put it down.
I found it equally compelling and harrowing. I feel most people will relate to the issues of self harm, prejudice and domestic violence. this book shows that prejudice and shame still exist. I await further works from this authour. Give it a go its fab!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I felt for the main character and was equally frustrated by him. No twists or turns but an enjoyable read.
Published 3 days ago by Jane
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Wonderful read!
Published 6 days ago by Sheila M. Wardlaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Excellent well written book. Couldn't put it down. Didn't know the author but heard it reviewed on radio 4 book club and very glad I did! Read more
Published 7 days ago by Helen Maclean
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read that upset me a bit!
I have never been in prison but was away at boarding school, Lewis would be a few years older than me but in a way this book was an excellent read but upset me quite a bit, Lewis's... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Saronie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Smart turn round. Thank you.
Published 11 days ago by Mr. RL Sothcott
5.0 out of 5 stars I tried a few books and was disappointed. This has been an extremely...
Due to being on various vocational course I was out of the habit of reading novels and fiction. I tried a few books and was disappointed. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Ron
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I adored this story. The main character, Lewis, is wonderful - flawed, damaged, marvellous. The setting - 1940/50s England - is beautifully realised, as is the stultifying British... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Florence Hall
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
a good read
Published 20 days ago by Granny Mouse
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and oppressive first novel, almost succeeding.
I came to Sadie Jones first novel after I had read The Uninvited Guests (5 star for me) and her 2014 novel Fallout (which will also be a 5 star, for me, when it is published - I... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lady Fancifull
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
I purchased this book after being recommended by a friend and I was not disappointed. I sent for another book by the same author afer reading this.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. J. M. Budge
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