TLC Book Tours: Fallout by Sadie Jones

Fallout

Fallout.

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 JonesSadie 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.

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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

TLC Book Tours: The Uninvited Guests

It was the last day of April. Edward Swift is leaving for Manchester to try to save Sterne, the house that his wife Charlotte and her children Emerald and Clovis, aged 19 and 20, and young Imogen aka Smudge, adore:

“The children, too, feeling that they were at the end of a line, as children always do (for indeed, they are), loved Sterne as exhausted travellers with lifetimes of migration behind them might love their first and last home. Sterne was the mythology of their parents’ marriage, their father’s legacy, and it had given them the very best of their childhoods. Beyond that, it was beautiful, and the effect of it on their souls was inestimable; once found, they were all of them loath to give it up.”

It is Emerald’s birthday and a party has been planned. Her childhood friend Patience Sutton and her brother Ernest, their wealthy neighbour Johm Buchanan (whom Charlotte hopes to conjure up a romantic interest in Emerald) have been invited. Florence and Myrtle have been busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

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So it seems all very Downton Abbey at the moment. Dinner party. Large ailing estate.

But aha! A train has gone off the tracks and the railway has asked the good residents of Sterne to help take in some of the travellers. Third-class passengers to be exact. And as Charlotte has “built her life so that she might avoid third-class train carriages and she wasn’t going to wring her hands over those who made use of them now”, they get stuffed away into an unused room and pretty much ignored.

Somehow a mysterious straggler from the train, an upper-class sort, joins the dinner party. It turns out that he knows Charlotte from a long time ago. He initiates a rather bullying sort of parlour game and things just get odder and odder from there.

This story wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It takes some time to build and I only warmed up to the family when they decide to pitch in and help Florence and Myrtle feed the survivors. It must have been a rather comical sight, these partygoers in their evening clothes putting on aprons and making this lavish birthday feast feed many more than it was intended to feed.

“Florence’s keen blade found the slippery joints in the Poulet a la Marengo, the tender baby flesh of the veal roll. Still they were unsatisfied. The kitchen resembled a deserted field-hospital at the Crimea after the battle has moved on: bones with shreds of flesh clinging, wet cloths, stained, scraped boards and instruments flung down, as the hoards moved on to demolish the next thing – dessert.”

Then it becomes quite the riot from there. Jones layers in the class issues, family relationships, emotional tensions into a little whirlwind that erupts into one big reveal. It is a comedy of manners, a Gothic ghost story, really, it’s a mix-up of different genres, but overall an entertaining, clever little book. It is not for everyone, but if you set aside any expectations and are open to something a little different, The Uninvited Guests might be rather inviting after all.

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for this book. tlc logo

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour:

Monday, January 21st: Conceptual Reception

Tuesday, January 22nd: Drey’s Library

Wednesday, January 23rd: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, January 24th: Oh! Paper Pages

Monday, January 28th: nomadreader

Tuesday, January 29th: Bibliosue

Wednesday, January 30th: Excellent Library

Thursday, January 31st: 5 Minutes for Books

Monday, February 4th: Speaking of Books

Tuesday, February 5th: Giraffe Days

Friday, February 8th: Peppermint PhD

Monday, February 11th: All Grown Up?

Friday, February 15th: Silver’s Reviews