It feels so strange to not be writing a Burracombe book review. However today I thought I would share my thoughts on Outcast Child by Kitty Neale. I have a few books written by Kitty sat on my shelf but haven’t read any of them till now. I’m looking forward to discovering a new author and seeing what her writing style is like.
Daisy turned swiftly and ran back upstairs to her bedroom. She flung herself on her bed, clutching her pillow to her chest. Never before had she felt so lost and alone, unable to believe that she would never see her mother again…
It’s the 1950s, in South London, and when Daisy loses her mother, she retreats into a world of silence. To make matters worse, her once-happy home soon becomes a prison when her father remarries. It is only Daisy’s cousin, the naïve and vulnerable Lizzie, who brings a little sunshine back into Daisy’s life.
Then things begin to change when Daisy’s father discovers a shocking secret about his new wife – and Daisy finds unexpected happiness in a way she could never have anticipated…
The story begins in such a happy way. Whilst not idyllic, with mentions of slum living conditions and the contrast between rich and poor in the same street. There is a feeling of contentment and happiness amongst the residents. However that feeling doesn’t last long when character Judith is killed. I almost felt like this was a bit rushed. In hindsight, the accident is in a form which would most definitely be quick and unexpected so this worked well within the storyline.
From then on, the story is told mainly from character Daisy.
Its a great perspective to have because Daisy is still very much a child and can be extremely impressionable. Once her step-mother is brought into the story, you can sense a Cinderella style plot emerging.
Outcast Child features quite heavy themes that aren’t usually expected in this type of genre. Personally, I think this is a great addition to the book. It links so much more strongly between the 1950s and the world we live in today. Mental health plays a huge role in this story through so many of the characters. Comfort eating is also briefly mentioned as is childhood bullying.
One thing that I did find very raw and emotional was the way Kitty Neale brings to life sudden events that lead to disability. When Daisy’s step-mother is made disabled by an accident, Kitty is able to bring to life just what an impact it had on the whole family. This is where the mental health theme really stuck out for me. Kitty succeeded in showing the family-side who is adjusting to a new routine. In addition to this, you could also understand how the step-mother was coming to terms with the fact she will never walk again.
Kitty very cleverly wrote this book in such a way that almost right from the introduction of the step-mother, the reader disliked her. This ran most of the way through the story. I found that I could never able to trust her, even when she was trying to be nice. What I didn’t expect was the last few chapters of this book. A complete u-turn was made in the story. I suddenly felt compassion for the step-mother and what she had been through. Furthermore I also found that I started to like her.
This book does feature disability throughout.
As well as the step-mother, there is also Daisy’s cousin Lizzie. I loved the way that the contrast between an accident induced disability of the step-mother and the from birth disability shown in Lizzie. Whilst it is never confirmed in the book, some of the clues led me to believe Lizzie had Downs Syndrome. Whilst you hear stories of bullying and being shunned away during this era, Kitty chose to allow everyone to accept Lizzie as she was. This brought a very loving side to the story which otherwise, could have been harrowing. Lizzie’s personality is the complete opposite to the step-mother which really helped to balance out the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Outcast Child by Kitty Neale. So many important topics are spoken about throughout the story. It shows that whilst nobody’s life is perfect, you can make the best of a bad situation. In the end, you have to grab happiness whilst you can and the ending of this book definitely gave me a warm glow. I can’t wait to read more books from author Kitty Neale.
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