The Outcast

The Outcast

by Sadie Jones
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The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The village was asleep, with all the people behind the walls and through the windows and up the stairs of the little houses blind and deaf in their beds while anything might happen. Lewis headed down the middle of the road and he kept falling and had to remember to get back on his feet.

He reached the churchyard and stood in the dark with the church even darker above him.

–from The Outcast by Sadie Jones

It’s 1957. Nineteen-year-old Lewis Aldridge is returning by train to his home in Waterford where he has just served a two-year prison term for a crime that shocked the sleepy Surrey community. Wearing a new suit, he carries money his father Gilbert sent — to keep him away, he suspects — and a straight razor. No one greets him at the station.

Twelve years earlier, seven-year-old Lewis and his spirited mother Elizabeth are on the same train, bringing Gilbert home from war. Waterford is experiencing many such reunions, alcohol lubricating awkward homecomings and community gatherings. The most oppressive of these are the mandatory holiday parties hosted by the town’s leading industrialist Dicky Carmichael, Gilbert’s employer. With the Carmichael estate backing onto the Aldridge property, the attractive and popular Tamsin Carmichael and her precocious kid sister Kit are Lewis’s playmates, along with a gaggle of neighbourhood boys who (like Lewis) are fascinated by Tamsin. The children play thrilling and cruel games, mirroring the adults’ inebriated dysfunction.

Though pleased to be reunited with Elizabeth, Gilbert is appalled by the coddling his son has received in his absence. No longerpermitted to skip church for picnics by the river, Elizabeth and Lewis are steered back under the ever-judgmental gaze of Waterford society. Lewis continues to flourish, a naturally capable golden child. But iconoclastic Elizabeth, disappointed by Gilbert’s insistence on conformity, seeks refuge in the bottle.

Then a sunny riverside picnic ends with Elizabeth dead and ten-year-old Lewis the only witness. A shattered Gilbert is incapable of providing comfort to his young son and the community of Waterford turns away from the traumatized child, now rendered a pariah by tragedy. Lewis is sent to boarding school, summoned home only for holidays. Gilbert remarries five months later to Alice, a compliant beauty who is not up to the task of parenting a damaged child.

Years pass and Lewis, now a troubled teenager, is lost in dangerous and self-harming behaviours. When an incident with a local bully causes Lewis to be even further estranged from the community, Gilbert and Alice stand idly by as Lewis is tormented by the tyrannical Dicky. Enraged, Lewis commits a shocking crime against the whole of Waterford and is sent to prison.

Two years later, upon his shamed return, the town continues to treat Lewis as an outcast. Only Tamsin’s little sister Kit, now a young woman, sees in him the golden boy he once was. She had become infatuated with Lewis years earlier when he had casually protected her from bullies and broken bicycle chains. But she now faces a much darker and more dangerous sort of bullying at the hands of her father. It is up to Lewis once again to rescue her, redeeming himself through tremendous courage and terrible sacrifice. And perhaps Kit holds the power to rescue him, too.

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award and a finalist for the prestigious Orange Prize, Sadie Jones’s The Outcast introduces us to a clear and brave new voice in British fiction. The novel is a clarion call to us all, daring us to stand up to the bullies of our world, in whatever form they may take and — above all else — to love our children.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307396662
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication date: 03/01/2008
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.89(w) x 8.76(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Sadie Jones is the author of four novels, including The Outcast, winner of the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, Small Wars, and the bestselling The Uninvited Guests. She lives in London.

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Outcast 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
British writer Sadie Jones has given us an amazing debut novel, an achingly beautiful story of loss, love, and redemption. She astounds with her picture of 1950s England, a Surrey where emotions roil beneath a peaceful bucolic surface. With penetrating insight and scrupulously wrought studies she traces the characters as they develop. Her portrait of a young man who almost perishes in a painful search to define himself is especially moving. The Outcast opens as 19-year-old Lewis Aldridge is released after serving a two-year prison term for setting fire to the village church. He goes home as, in truth, he has nowhere else to go. He's hoping for a new beginning but that is not to be. Lewis's childhood is described in a flashback to when he was 10-years-old and adapting to his father, Gilbert, being home again after the war. Prior to that time Lewis and his mother, Elizabeth, enjoyed a happy, loving relationship. She doted on him and he returned her affection. Always a shadowy figure, Gilbert, once again takes his place in the home yet remains a puzzlement to the boy. Soon a dreadful tragedy occurs that sends Lewis into a horrific spiral of isolation, violence, and self-mutilation. Elizabeth drowns on what had begun as a happy river side picnic for Lewis and his mother. Gilbert is little solace to the boy and remarries within a year. Alice, his second wife, knows little of how to reach Lewis who is ostracized by his childhood friends. Riddled with self-hatred his behavior becomes increasingly anti-social, and he withdraws even deeper into himself. He is virtually shunned by other villagers save for Tasmin and Kit, daughters of Gilbert's employer, Dicky Carmichael. Kit is the youngest daughter who was a tag-along playmate in Lewis's childhood, often ridiculed by her older sister and ignored by the others. The Carmichael household is a dark one, harboring the secret of Dicky's domestic violence. 'Dicky often hit Claire (his wife), it was a habit, and part of the pattern of the family, and it wasn't questioned between them at all.' Dicky's rage is soon vented on Kit as he beats her mercilessly, always slapping her hard across the face with an open hand so as not to leave any marks. He would beat her with a belt 'until his arm felt quite tired.' Upon his return from prison Lewis finds no welcome or comfort in his home. 'Very often Gilbert and Alice were fairly drunk by supper anyway, so it wasn't as bad as lunch, but sometimes the being drunk was worse - you could see what was underneath.' When Lewis learns of the abuse suffered by Kit he longs to rescue her, but feels he has no power to do so. Is it possible that one damaged individual can save another? With lucid, affecting prose Sadie Jones carries us along to a startling yet satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was rooting for Kit and Lewis from the very moment he 'rescued' her from her broken bike when they were just children. My heart broke a little every time they could have saved each other but were too caught up in their own separate tragedies to see each other's pain. When Kit finally yelled 'we're saved!' my heart nearly jumped out of my chest with joy. Great book, predictable ending, but how the author gets to the expected conclusion is a beautiful, worthwhile story that I will not soon forget.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In England the war is over and many veterans are coming home to their loved ones. Ten year old Lewis Aldridge struggles with having an adult male in the household with the return of his father Gilbert and the change in routines to a more stifling environment. However as both males adjust, the lad still enjoys picnics in the woods with his mom Elizabeth until the day she fails to return home with him having drowned. --- While Gilbert remains outraged in his grief over the next year, his remote father remarries Alice, who has no idea how to reach her stepson. A few years later, Lewis goes to prison for arson, having burned down a church. In 1957 now nineteen years old Lewis is free and returns home. Sixteen years old Kit Carmichael, daughter of the most influential family, is attracted to Lewis and wants to help him while her older sister twenty one years old Tamsin teases and flirts with him, which he assumes means she is attracted to him. Their abusive father, who is his dad¿s boss, simply wants to destroy him. --- This deep historical tale may take place in the Happy Days of the 1950s in England, but has incredibly deep relevance today as the family dynamics is explored. First the issue of returning veteran being away for extended war duty shows how complex life can be whether it is fifteen months deployment to Iraq or fighting for several years on the continent. Second there is the parental abuse of the father hitting his wife and Kitty as if he had the divine right to do so, which leaves an angry Lewis feel helpless. Finally there is the alcoholism of Gilbert and Alice that isolates Lewis even further. With THE OUTCAST ironically as the center to all these social issues, Sadie Jones provides a powerful look at the dark side of families circa 1957 but still germane in 2008. --- Harriet Klausner
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SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
Here's another book read on my trip to England and I've finally worked out why all the English books I've enjoyed recently seem to different from American ones-they're all written in third person omniscient. I could quickly become accustomed to this-they do it so very well it seems completely natural, just vaguely foreign to my ex-pat reading style. The voice is perfectly suited to Sadie Jones' quintessentially English tale of repressed emotion, unspoken care and secret pain in The Outcast. The novel is set in England towards the end of the 1950s; it's dark and haunting with families hurt by tragedy, love turned to despair, and community holding firm to community values, stiff upper lip and all. In 1947, a ten-year-old boy waits for his father's return from the war. In 1957, father awaits the son's return. In between, the world has changed. Father and son can't close the gap that tragedy's built between them, so now they watch each other fall apart. Across the village, another family deals with pain in similarly secret ways. Teenagers reach out and past each other, never quite connecting, just as they did as children, and the wounds of the past begin to open again. The narrative is tight and tense, the vision clear, and the insight wholly evocative and powerful. Even as every turn leads further into darkness, the prospect of light remains, and even the worst wounds can still be redeemed. The Outcast is a truly beautiful tale of a young man dealing with his mother's death, his father's coldness, and his community's unwillingness to make allowances. The novel cuts through secrecy with a razor blade of clear observation. By the end the protagonist wears his wounds with pride and the reader can share a sigh of hope. Disclosure: My sister-in-law has wonderful taste in books and kindly passed this one on to me.
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novelone More than 1 year ago
Afriend recommended this book and I bought it for a trip. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. The setting is 1950's England and Lewis Aldridge has just been released from prison and is heading reluctantly home. Flashback to Lewis at ten and the story starts to unfold. Lewis and his mother have been happy living on their own with his father off to war. When his father returns everything changes. He has no time for his son and wants his wife to only spend time with him. She is a wonderful mother and when she drowns before Lewis's eyes, his life will never be the same again. His father quickly remarries to a woman who does not understand children and his life becomes a living hell. When he commits an act of arson he is sent to jail. Back to present time. He returns home and strikes up a friendship with his father's boss's daughter. When he finds out she is being physically abused he trys to help with dire consequences. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.
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OS More than 1 year ago
Marissa and Matt are expecting. And Marissa has a pregnant woman's request, and the request involves a cradle. The characters the author creates along the way of Matt's search for the cradle are easy to visualize as a result of the vivid and colorful descriptions. And, just when you think the story is going to end, it takes another, and then another, twist. Get this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a riveting novel. Such good writing. Very simple but I couldn't put it down. This misunderstood, damaged young man who loses his mother and has no one to turn to and talk to in close mouthed, stifled England in the 50s. I look forward to Sadie Jones' next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent story about what its like to come back home after being in a place where you felt like you didnt belong. It was very detailed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Did you ever want to grab a character from the pages of a book and hug him? I dare you not to want to embrace Lewis and tell him he¿s loved. The characters within this debut novel are so three dimensional that you feel for them, know them, and want to sit them down and straighten them out. A book I couldn¿t put down, but wanted to slowly read to enjoy every word. One of the best books I¿ve picked up in a while. A wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One hopeless and misunderstood young boys struggle to thrive with no support and in spite of enduring multiple tragedies duting his formative years. The dark parts may make you cringe, but many unexpected plot twists make it hard to put down.