From Page to Screen: The Outcast


From Page to Screen

The Book choice today is:

THE OUTCAST

By Sadie Jones



This book was adapted for the screen as a TV mini-series on BBC. It aired in early August and I loved it. I had to read the book afterwards and I am very glad I did.

The BBC cast included:

-      George Mackay Lewis Aldridge

-      Greg Wise Gilbert Aldridge

-      Hattie Morahan Elizabeth Aldridge

-      Jessica Barden Kit Carmichael

-      Nathaniel Parker Dick Carmichael

The story is set in the 1950s and revolves around Lewis Aldridge. Originally a happy-go-lucky 10 year old, he witnesses the death of his mother by drowning and forever is changed and becomes the titular ‘Outcast’.

I’ll start with the book, even though I read it after watching the mini-series.


Book Review

 
As soon as the show had aired I had to read this book, and I completed it within a train journey to and from Brighton and loved it. I didn’t want to put it down.

The writing is incredibly simple in places but it’s also extremely moving. The gripping atmosphere and the need to understand Lewis who, as he grows up, is a very strange character in the sense that he is so human.

He witnesses the death of his mother and yet the 1950s society rules dictate that he should be fine. He should go to university and become a rising star in business or law.  He should be polite and witty.

Yet the Lewis that the story revolves around is a troubled boy who struggles with the death of his beloved mother and the lack of loving attention he receives afterwards.
 
The character of Kit Carmichael, the tom-boyish, clever and brave girl of the story is not your typical romantic character. She is much younger than Lewis, is treated as such her entire life even though she is perhaps more intelligent than all the adults of the novel.

I would say that the story revolves a little too much around her ‘first-love’ feelings when the person she is in love with is away for most of her childhoodbut she is an extremely fascinating character nonetheless.

 
Overall the characters of the book are what make it so intriguing to read. They are the typical cluster of 1950s stereotypes but they are also so human that they could be my neighbours.

The story has some dark themes including: incestuous seductions, alcohol, sex, self-harm, abusebut this is more realism than Game of Thrones, and none of the themes really drag you away from the humanity of the story.

 

TV Review

When the show aired I thought there was little publicity for it. I saw and advert and I thought I’d watch it as it had one of my favourite up and coming actors (George Mackay) in it and I was very glad I did.

The series was set over 2 episodes which aired within a week of each other. The first episode deals with the death of Lewis’s mother and the return of his father from the Second World War.


We watch the decline of Lewis from a happy-go-lucky boy to a steely-eyed and jazz-loving teenager who makes everyone uncomfortable by barely speaking and staring a lot.

The audience witnesses his dissent into jazz, alcohol and sex with an older women all the while the 1950s cluster of neighbours see him as a disturbed young man who may have possibly killed his own mother.

You want to shake the horrible neighbours and scream at Lewis’s father played by Greg Wise with such a lack of empathy it is disturbing. He practices saying ‘My wife is dead’ in his dining room before talking to his neighbours about it all of these characters make for enticing viewing as we watch Lewis’s dissent into the second episode.

 
The second episode focuses more on Lewis’s relationship with his stepmother and Kit Carmichael Jessica Barden excels as Kit. She is a very watchable actress with her vulnerability/strength and incredibly young looks even though she is 23!
 
The answers you get in the TV show are the same as the book but because the issues are so personal and based on thoughts you don’t really get the whole picture. Merely the outline within the film.

But the acting is superb. Besides from a few under-written moments and slightly drawn out scenes the second episode was just as good, if not slightly, better than the first episode. The last 10 minutes will have your emotions going topsy turvy!

 

Overall I loved both of these works and I think they both deserve recognition but I would say that the book is slightly better, only slightly. The TV adaption is perhaps the closest adaption I have ever seen to perfection of the book the writing, the scene set-out, the character portrayalsetc. They all just fit.

But the book gave you those details that were missing slightly from the TV adaption, all of Lewis’s thoughts and his needs that aren’t being met. What he is thinking when he is silent or drunk in the TV adaption. This just tips it over the edge.

I would highly recommend both, and in either order.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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