The word makes me think of a nuclear disaster. Or that video game.
But Sadie Jones’ Fallout refers to “the fallout from the 60s when everyone thought they were free but were in fact getting things wrong”, she says in an interview with The Resident. Or perhaps the fallout that happens when love and ambition collide.
Luke Kanowski lives a small town life, growing up in boring Seston, working in a dreary job at a dreary paper mill. He escapes this provincial life in his writing, his reading, his interest in pictures and plays, his dreams. He hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods – his mother is in an asylum, his father an alcoholic. He’s had to sacrifice plenty to keep things going.
Then one evening, in the pouring rain, two strangers turn up, lost, asking for directions, having driven from London to look for a pub in Seston where they were to meet a writer.
(Luke is shocked. A writer? He had never heard anyone referred to as a writer before this. This might have been the beginnings of his realization that his life was too small, too limited.)
And after that one night, those few hours with Paul and Leigh, Luke realises how much he is missing in his life by staying in quiet Seston, deserted-at-8pm Seston.
He quits his job, packs his things and heads for the bright lights of London, where the only person he can think of to call on is Paul the producer, whom he had met just that once, but who agrees to meet him.
And these kindred spirits, with their shared passion for the theatre, start their own company. Their dreams are big, their love for the theatre unfaltering. The world is their oyster. Which mostly consists of plays with a cause – miners and the like.
Interspersed in between all this is the life of Nina Jacobs, aspiring actress, meek daughter to the competitive, rather bitchy Marianne, player of bit parts. Luke watches Nina in a play and is so taken by her, enchanted, he cannot forget her. He seeks her out, but she is with a sleazy producer, ambitious and driven, and in full control of their relationship. But their paths are meant to cross. And it is an intoxicating whirlwind of a ride. Anyone in their way be damned.
Luke is such a well-built character. Following him from his childhood, with his devotion to his sick mother, his absent father, his love for the theatre. He is alive on every page. His devotion to his work, his flings, his writing, his adoration for Nina, pop out at you. But, for me, I struggled to like Nina, to see what Luke saw in her. Her meekness (with her mother, her husband) frustrated me. But then, that must be what being an actor is like, that agility, the ability to immerse oneself in the role and become someone else.
That attraction between them though is so magnetic that it is completely fascinating.
“People passed them by and she had the sensation everybody could tell what she felt, that the air between them was different from everywhere else.”
Jones writes the world of 1970s London theatre with a deft hand. Turns out, growing up, she lived in 1970s west London, where her father was a scriptwriter, her mother an actress, so she has written her own memories into the story.
Fallout is such a departure from Jones’ previous book, The Uninvited Guests, a gothic Downton Abbey-esque satire. But it is an absorbing, heady kind of read. The bright lights of the 1970s London theatre scene throw onto this story a fresh and different glamour. She delves into a complex web of relationships – among friends, lovers – and exposes the facets, imperfections and flaws. And more importantly, these are characters that I can’t help but care about, wonder about long after I have closed the book and set it aside. A sign of a great read.
Sadie Jones is the author of The Outcast, a winner of the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; the novel Small Wars; and the bestselling novel The Uninvited Guests. She lives in London.
I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours
Check out the other stops on the tour:
Tuesday, April 29th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, April 30th: missris
Thursday, May 1st: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Monday, May 5th: Books on the Table
Tuesday, May 6th: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, May 7th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, May 8th: Read Lately
Monday, May 12th: five borough book review
Tuesday, May 13th: Chaotic Compendium
Wednesday, May 14th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 15th: The Road to Here
Monday, May 19th: A Book Geek
Friday, May 23rd: Books à la Mode
Monday, May 26th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, May 29th: Giraffe Days
Friday, May 30th: Books and Movies