Sunday, March 30, 2008

#21 - The Outcast

For a first novel, Sadie Jones's The Outcast is remarkably accomplished. However, I'd say that the novel is much richer in character development than in plot, which wasn't necessarily cliched, but it was a bit predictable. Regardless, Jones's tale remains captivating from start to finish. It caught me enough to keep me awake one night far, far into the hours of the early morning, and the book's amazing ending (which I will not spoil here) made me cry so much I had to go back and read it again the next day to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Set in England in 1957, the outcast of the title is Lewis Aldridge, a teenager just out of jail, and the back story about how he got there in the first place, and what happens upon his return, fills in the richness of his tortured soul. With as much of the story taking place behind the closed familial doors, where personal tragedy seems to reign supreme for all of the characters, The Outcast richly imagines the social constructions that worked to keep it there in the decades where the novel takes place.

I don't want to say much more except the book is definitely worth reading, and I'd be curious to see if other people were as taken by the ending as I was, feeling like it's the hardest part to write of any bits and pieces, and getting it right must just seem like such an accomplishment.

READING CHALLENGES: I have this book down as England in my Around the World in 52 Books challenge, and really feel like Jones captures the spirit and essence of the setting extremely well. You could feel the upper-crust clutching to their conventions, feel the classicism that almost destroys not one but two families, and it made me wish my grandmother was still alive so we could talk about the book together.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Considering I read this book a couple of months ago but couldn't blog about it until it was actually in stores, I'm halfway through The Age of Innocence and absolutely obsessed with Wharton's masterpiece at the moment. Then I might take up Denis Johnson's massive Tree of Smoke, simply because I think it'll become my book for the USA in the aforementioned challenge.

1 comment:

metro mama said...

I was worried that the plot was heading in a really predictable direction, and I was glad when it turned around. But I wasn't crazy about the ending--I don't know how to say why without spoilers.

That said, I still loved the book.