The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The ‘Blurb’ [from Fantasticfiction.co.uk]
It’s 1957 and Lewis Aldridge is travelling back to his home in the South of England. He is straight out of jail and nineteen years old. His return will trigger the implosion not just of his family, but of a whole community.

A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming casts a different shape. The war is over and Gilbert reverts easily to suburban life — cocktails at six-thirty, church on Sundays — but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.

Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she is dealt by her own father’s hand. Lewis’s grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to predict the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.

Whatever you think about Richard and Judy (and personally I don’t watch them – I always plan to watch the book reviews on Wednesdays but the timeslot is a bad one with children so I never quite get round to it) – they’ve picked some good books in their Bookclub, and The Outcast is another very enjoyable read.

I think you might like this if you liked The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – it has that feel about it, although it’s maybe not quite so good.

Someone on Amazon described this as like watching a car crash unfold in slow-motion, and I think that sums it up rather accurately. It feels a bit long-winded in places, and yet I read it really quickly (for me) and overall thought it was very enjoyable – especially as it’s her debut novel. I shall certainly look forward to her future books.

7½/10

(Read June 2008)

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