The Outcast

Written by Sadie Jones
Review by Doug Kemp


Set in a middle-class commuter town in southern England in the late 1940s and 1950s, this is a highly accomplished first novel. The story begins with Lewis Aldridge, in his late teens, arriving home on his release from Brixton prison after serving two years for an unknown offence. The tale unfolds of the circumstances leading up to his incarceration and then the disturbing events following his return to home life in fictional Waterford (not to be confused with the town in Ireland). Lewis is a disturbed and difficult young man, but we are taken through the events in his young life, starting with the death of his mother in a drowning accident whilst picnicking. Lewis grows up bereaved in a cold and bleak domestic environment, with his father quickly remarrying.

The milieu of harsh home life and culture of the England in the 1950s are pictured with acute and searing honesty. There is the hypocrisy of the small community, church-based and yet utterly selfish and sanctimonious, and the delights of hidden domestic abuse, drunkenness and repression. Lewis finds some relief in this paean of gloom, notably with his developing relationship with Kit Carmichael, the rebellious and abused daughter of Waterford’s wealthy alpha-male. This is excellent historical fiction, both an engaging story and a work of literary finesse.