I had read Sadie Jones' second novel, Small Wars, earlier this year and while I had some problems with it I was still keen to read her debut novel, The Outcast.
I'm so glad I did because I found The Outcast to be a much better book and one that I connected with so much more.
The Outcast begins in a small village outside London at the end of the Second World War when 7 year old Lewis waits with his beloved mother, Elizabeth for the father he hardly knows to come home from the war. When Lewis's father, Gilbert, does arrive home things change in their household - while his parents clearly love each other they are from very different worlds and Lewis starts to see changes in his life because of this. The close bond he has developed with his mother starts to be torn away a little by the new intrusion of his father into their world.
An event occurs when Lewis is 10 years old that changes his world even more dramatically and the way in which people relate to him after this occurrence affects his development and relationships into adulthood.
This is an author that clearly like to take on the heavy topics! While there are certainly moments of joy and happiness in the book it is pain and tragedy that take the focus but unlike in Small Wars I think The Outcast deals with all of this pain in a much more realistic and connected way. I felt for Lewis through the telling of his story and the way in which it was told made me want to reach into the pages at times and shake people who were doing stupid things!! I wanted to be able to affect the action - to me this is always a sign that I am involved in a book and I care about what is happening to the characters.
The Outcast of the title could clearly be Lewis but there are many other characters within the story who would fit the title perfectly and this was another aspect of the book that interested me - who wasn't an outcast in some way?
I loved this story and the way in which it was told - looking forward to her next novel.