Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

I've had The Outcast sat on the shelves for quite a long time, and for some reason, something had stopped me picking it up. I'm not sure if I could say I enjoyed this book, as it was pretty depressing all the way through, but I was certainly gripped and I loved the story.

We start the story when the main character, Lewis, is returning from a spell in prison, to a family that do not seem to want him home. After this first chapter, we backtrack to his childhood, and the majority of the book is concerned with Lewis's life until he was sent to prison and the events that got him there. When we first meet Lewis he is a small child, living alone with his mother, and awaiting the imminent return of his father from the war. It at first seems as though they are part of an idyllic, fairly comfortable family, but it soon transpires that Lewis's relationship with his father is not all it could be, and although his mother obviously idolises him, she drinks a lot. When Lewis's mother dies in an accident witnessed only by Lewis, his life is understandably turned upside down. From this point on, Lewis withdraws into his shell, and eventually ends up as something of an outcast in his community. I got the feeling that he was torn between his needs and desires to be part of the community, but his hatred and desperation at being excluded, even by his own family.

Lewis is seen as odd, by virtually everyone in the community, including both his distant father and his bewildered stepmother, who his father married remarkably quickly after his first wife's death. In fact the only person who doesn't view him as odd and deranged is Kit, the youngest child of The Carmichael family, who are good friends of Lewis's family. But this information is kept to herself for most of the novel, and she has problems of her own with her father.

In fact, the novel is populated by unpleasant adult characters, imposing their will on the children, with disastrous results. Lewis's father is distant and harsh on Lewis, with a total failure to understand how his mother's death has affected him. Kit's father punishes her violently for the slightest misdemeanor whilst her mother turns a blind eye to this, her only reaction being to leave the room. Mr Carmichael is also instrumental in Lewis's final departure and separation from his family, and horrifically, uses him as a scapegoat for his own actions.

Lewis himself is portrayed as a confused child and adolescent throughout the whole novel. He is by no means an angel, and does some dubious things, but in modern society a lot of what he does, both to others and himself would be spotted quicker and picked upon as a reaction to his mother's death. We are definitely left with the impression that a bit more understanding and perhaps some medical or even psychological care would have nipped his issues in the bud quickly. He really does seem to be left to find his own way in the world. with horrible results. The climax sees Lewis realising he has to do something to help someone else, even if it alienates him.

In the end, Lewis does seem to come to some kind of resolution, and although it's not a happy ending, it does seem positive and as if the climax at the conclusion of the book has helped Lewis realise his potential, or at least make a start on this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm the same, I've had this on my shelf for ages and just haven't got around to reading it. It might stay there a little longer but it does sound good.