The Outcast

The Outcast

Book - 2008
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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 longer permitted 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.
Publisher: Toronto : A.A. Knopf Canada, 2008.
ISBN: 9780307396686
Branch Call Number: JON
Characteristics: 347 pages ; 23 cm


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sharonb122 Jul 14, 2013

An excellent portrait of post WWII real life behind the walls of respectability. the 1950s are typically remembered as idylic and tipifying "Family Values," but the human family was still flawed to the point of heartbreak and marring it's children. The generations pass it on. the "redemptive powers of love and understanding" pomised by the dust cover, came too late and not enough for me. Kit and Lewis quickly declare their love and each take off on their separate journeys alone, without family or any true healing from their tramas. I suspect their brokenness will follow them and rear its ugly head many times in the future.

May 21, 2012

This story started out okay. but I gave it up after gruesome acts. It has been my experience when a story starts going down that road, it doesn't get better. I would not recommend this book.

May 01, 2012

The theme of this book is 1950s patriarchy and physical abuse. It tells the story of a boy whose mother drowns and who feels abandoned. He cuts himself and ends up in prison. He is redeemed by a young girl. The book is not that well-written.

Dec 14, 2009

What if something terrible happens to a 10 year old boy. And then he can't handle the emotions of the event and everyone things he is responsible for it happening. And then everyone who should help him gives up on him and thinks he is a bad person. Except for someone else who is having something bad happen to her. Nothing good ever happens in this bleak book but in the end all is exposed.

samdog123 Jun 03, 2009

As a child, Lewis suffers the tragic loss of his Mother. As time goes by, he becomes emotionally disturbed and he spirals into a pattern of destructive behavior. Set in an era when mental disturbances were totally misunderstood; its a very poignant story, but well worth a read.

Nov 25, 2008

A sad but lovely story. You completely feel for the protagonist.

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