“The Outcast” by Sadie Jones

As the book opens, it’s 1957 and nineteen year old Lewis has just returned to the family home after being released from prison. Kit is the youngest daughter of the pillar of the local village who has hero worshipped Lewis from early childhood. The story goes back to Lewis’s early childhood and tells the tragedy and grief that leads up to his imprisonment, and then follows on from his release to look at the fall out and the effects on himself, his family, Kit and the rest of the village.

There are so many interesting things about this book, I don’t know where to start!

I guess the first thing that struck me when I finished the book was the narrative. Although told in the third person, the focus is always on either Lewis or Kit, and while they never directly speak to the read, you always feel as though you’re seeing their unique perspective on the story and it results in a very personal and close relationship with the reader.

I usually prefer linear plots, but this one starts at the mid point of the story for the prologue, then jumps back to the beginning and follows the rest of the story in the traditional chronological order. This actually add to the story for me, as you know what has happened and you gradually come to understand why it has happened and the ongoing fallout from the tragedy.

The claustrophobic society of the village, the lack of communication between family members and the repression of emotions are all indicative of the 1940’s and 1950’s before the advent of the idea that people need to share feelings and talk about traumatic experiences to get comfort from each other. This leads to one of the characters starting to self harm, something that while I’m aware of it, I know very little about. I thought the descriptions and explorations of the feelings of the characters involved, and also those of the people who eventually find out what has been happening were compelling to read.

This is not a pleasant read, but I have to say, it held my attention and I savoured reading it, taking care to understand an unusual subject matter. Well written with heart and feeling, and a very worthwhile read.

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