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The Outsider by Emily Hourican

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction | Young Adult

By Swirl and Thread

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‘Two very different families…..
One is loud, eccentric, rich and confident.
The other is less sure of their place in life.’

The Outsider is the fourth novel from Irish writer Emily Hourican. Just published on the 6th June with Hachette Ireland, it is described as ‘a compelling and unforgettable story of the complexity of friendship, marriage, hidden passions and teenage desire’. It’s a book that I quickly became very absorbed in, as I turned the pages, following two very different families on two very different, yet interwoven, journeys.

On holidays in Portugal, an incident in a resort swimming pool marks the beginning of a friendship between two eleven year old girls, Sarah and Jamie. Sarah is an only child, born into a family where money is tight and a holiday in the sun is a very special one indeed. Yet, for Sarah, the loneliness of home has followed her here. All around her other kids are jumping into the pool, playing with friends and siblings, but Sarah remains by herself with just her imagination for company. Her Mum and Dad, Miriam and Paul, love Sarah very much but there is a reticence about them, a seriousness, which has spilled into their daily lives, leaving very little room for family fun. The day-to-day routine and the struggles of life have impacted their ability to relax, to just enjoy each other’s company and unfortunately this dreamed for holiday has not provided the happiness they were hoping for.

Jamie, also in Portugal with her family on holiday, is a super-confident child. With three older brothers, Jamie is used to the rough and tumble of life, displaying exuberance in everything she does. Jamie is the youngest daughter of Maeve and Simon, a couple who enjoy the good things and have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ attitude to life. Simon is a very successful property developer, who works hard, but also plays hard.

Jamie attracts lost things, strays, waifs and she sees something of a stray in Sarah, wanting to look after her, to welcome her into the fold of her family. Sarah laps up Jamie’s attention, this wild child who sees something in her and within days, the two families become acquainted, a holiday friendship, nothing more…..

Jamie and Sarah are both from Dublin. After the return from Portugal, Sarah craves contact with Jamie. Her mother, Miriam, could see the positive affect Jamie had on Sarah’s personality so, with a little persistence, the families are reunited once more and their lives became entwined in ways no-one could possibly have imagined.

As the years pass, circumstances change, friendships change, relationships change. The girls mature and develop. Their teenage years become a rite of passage as personalities evolve with every passing year. The parents relationship also shifts over time, reacting as events unfold.

Emily Hourican writes with such a perceptive eye, bringing to life the places, the people and the atmosphere of this beautifully written book. The Outsider is very much a character driven tale, packed with incredible observations detailing the finer intricacies of relationships. The Outsider is a coming-of-age story yet also highlights the difficulties of marriage and the challenges of parenting.

The Outsider is contemporary fiction, a captivating tale with almost a voyeuristic quality to it. I could smell the ocean in Kerry, I could feel the salt on my skin, the surf on my face. I could feel the heat off the camp fires. I could sense the discomfort of the tentative ‘firsts’ of the teenager, the jealousy, the passion. It all felt very real which is completely attributed to the skillful writing of Emily Hourican.

The Outsider is an incredibly stirring novel, a seductive tale that will captivate the reader from the opening pages. An intelligent and fascinating portrayal of human behaviour with equally intriguing characters, The Outsider is quite simply a wonderful read….

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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