The Outcast

December 27, 2008

     

Written by: Sadie Jones

Read by: Dan Stevens

Published by: Random House Audiobooks

Price: £16.63

 

The lump in my throat announced itself when Lewis Aldridge was being questioned by the Coroner about the death of his mother. I don’t think it left throughout the rest of the book. If Sadie Jone’s beautifully written book had been set today – Lewis’ tragic life would never have played out. He would have been healed, maybe a week or so after his mother’s death. And I’d like to think that people listen to children now. But I guess that’s why Sadie delivered a story set in the 1950’s…with no psychiatrists of today, and no social care..’else there wouldn’t be such a superbly moving story! (plus i’m an eternal optimist)

 

 

We meet Lewis as he returns home after a spell in prison in 1957 aged 19 – we’ve no clues as to why he was there – other than a cold relationship with his father and stepmother, and a silent drive to a refurbished church.

Sadie Jones takes us back then, to when Lewis was 10 – a year which changes him to a quiet, withdrawn little boy who becomes an angry alien to everyone.

 

Gilbert Aldridge, Lewis’ father had just returned from the war, and although he is cold and aloof with Lewis, we have sympathy with him for the trauma of his own past. Sadie Jones cleverly weaves Gilbert’s oppressive character into Lewis’ own fabric of despair. For, although Elizabeth, Lewis’ mother, is hardly mentioned between the two – her name rings throughout the whole story. Lewis is 10 years old when she dies.

 

Gilbert marries Alice within a year. She’s young and embarrassingly green. She hides her shortcomings in alcohol; which later leads to her having clothes ripping sex with Lewis at the top of their stairs. Gilbert had told Lewis to look after her, seeing the state she was in.

 

From the moment Gilbert returns to from the war, he’s determined to appear within the right social circles. He looks to the Carmichaels, the major neighbouring family for this. Lewis has known their daughters Kit and Tamsin, since they were very young.

 

Dan Stevens is able to bring an air of menace from the outset with Dicky Carmichaels’ character. It’s the more menacing because we see behind closed doors – and his violence towards his wife and daughter Kit. He never intends to touch Tamsin for a reason we never find out. The scenes echo those of Lewis’ own turmoil – and thus the two are brought together.

Kit Carmichaels is the only person who sees through Lewis’ black shroud of despair. She had always been wise beyond her years. In return, Lewis is the only person to see Kit’s own damaged soul. Their story entwines amidst the social hypocrisy..

 

I couldn’t put this audio down – and found the ending bitterly sweet. Bitter, because it had finished. Sweet – because it left it’s remains of brilliance with me.

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