‘Fallout’ by Sadie Jones – Isn’t It Romantic?

‘Fallout’ by Sadie Jones    (2014) – 405 pages

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The mood of ‘Fallout’ is uber romantic.  Who could be more desirous to a young woman than a good looking boy like Luke who visits his mother every day at the insane asylum where she is forced to stay?  After he moves away to London, he faithfully writes postcards to her every week.  Did I mention that in his spare time from his job as a dust (trash) man he writes stage comedies?  After many one-night stands with always eager young women in London, he falls hard for Nina, the exquisitely sad beautiful actress who is married to theatre impresario Tony. And then there is Leigh, the girlfriend of Luke’s roommate Paul.  It is the magic of Sadie Jones that she makes all this seem almost plausible.  It would be easier to laugh at ‘Fallout’ if it weren’t so well done.

 “On 14 July, Cartwright’s Army opened.  From the first night they knew it was different to everything they had done before.  And it sold out every night; the pub was packed, queues out onto the pavement for standbys five nights in a row.  Normally, audiences were a simple crowd of separate people; for Cartwright’s Army they became one person.  The audience, the production, the actors, the words, all were part of a single mechanism, connected, and the life of it charged the air.”

 Sadie Jones knows her theatre.  ‘Fallout’ is about the glamour and excitement of the theatrical life, the flops, the hits, the stars, the also-rans, and the after performance parties. It takes place in the early 1970s when staging plays didn’t seem quite so commercial. While the novel is very much about the theatre, it feels a lot like it could be a movie itself on the order of ‘A Star is Born’, the Judy Garland-James Mason version, not the sappy Barbra Streisand-Kris Kristofferson remake.

‘Fallout’ rolls along like a steamroller knocking logic and sense out of the way in relentless fashion as it pursues its glamorous story.  Luke supposedly writes comedies yet never does he say anything remotely humorous.  The novel does not deal at all with the realistic difficulties of the creative life.

I have a strong attraction to backstage novels of which ‘Fallout’ is an alluring example.  Sadie Jones writes with an immediacy and intensity that keeps one turning the pages.   Yes, there are soap opera qualities in the plot of ‘Fallout’ that can almost make a reader groan out loud, but at the same time the reader becomes deeply involved with this story.

The story is told in a breathless manner. The female fantasy fulfillment here is shameless, but like a lot of things shameful it is titillating.  I see ‘Fallout’ as a guilty pleasure, an intoxicating read on its own terms that avoids the harsh light of ordinary realism.



4 responses to this post.

  1. I read a book of hers a few years back and I can’t remember a thing about it, not even the name!



    • Hi Cathy,
      Yes, that happens to me a lot too. Especially when I watch a movie of a novel I’ve read before and find that I don’t remember a thing about what happens. That’s what happened when I watched ‘Restoration’ last night, even though I really liked the novel.



  2. This sounds like a fun book, especially when you need to escape a few dreary hours. I loved your description of it as a steamroller, knocking logic and sense out of the way. I do know that feeling of being taken over by an author and just tumbling along.



    • Hi Charlotte,
      Yes, I found ‘Fallout’ an exciting fun read despite or maybe because of its detachment from reality. This is not just Chick-Lit, because Sadie Jones is obviously familiar with all aspects of the theatre and the sentences in the novel are superior.



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