Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Book Review: The Outcast
Sadie Jones's debut novel, The Outcast, is a tragic, heartbreaking novel—but well worth the read. Jones is an excellent writer. Her characters are rich and the story is thickly woven. Set in England in the decade after World War 2, the story opens as 19-year-old Lewis is released from prison and returns to his home in the country. He's hoping to start over, but his father in anything but welcoming.
The rest of the novel goes between flashbacks of Lewis's tragic life and the current story. You can't help but root for Lewis, who lost his beloved mother at an early age and was raised by a cold-hearted father. Lewis spirals into a pit of self-despair, leading eventually to cutting. I had to question the cutting; it seems such a modern thing. I never even heard about this form of self-mutilation until the past decade or so, and I wondered about this aspect of the novel. I did just a little searching for the history of cutting and saw that it has been indeed known and documented in the past 100 years and more. Still, I didn't care for the contemporary twist on the story. Cutting too strongly evokes thoughts of emo kids for me.
But the form that Lewis takes for self-punishment (and there are others, as well), regardless of its modernity in my mind, only slightly distracted me from the excellent writing of the novel. I was totally wrapped up in the world of Lewis and his neighbors, the Carmichaels, who also play a pivotal role in the novel.
This novel reminded me somewhat of Ian McEwan's Atonement. I look forward to what Sadie Jones has next.