Author: Sadie Jones
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
Number of pages: 416
First line: New York was not his city and this was not his life.
Goodreads blurb: Leaving behind an emotionally disastrous childhood in a provincial northern town, budding playwright Luke Kanowski begins a new life in London that includes Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer who will become his best friend, and Leigh Radley, Paul’s girlfriend. Talented and ambitious, the trio found a small theater company that enjoys unexpected early success. Then, one fateful evening, Luke meets Nina Jacobs, a dynamic and emotionally damaged actress he cannot forget, even after she drifts into a marriage with a manipulative theater producer.
As Luke becomes a highly sought after playwright, he stumbles in love, caught in two triangles where love requited and unrequited, friendship, and art will clash with terrible consequences for all involved.
I was drawn to Fallout because it is set in the theater world. I was a drama geek in high school and a Theater Arts major in college, and I loved every minute of it. I don’t have a lot of visual memories of the past, as I am an audio learner and most of my memories are tied to sounds. However, I can vividly picture the set of every play I performed in, my fellow cast mates, the costumes I wore. I remember the way the theaters in my community college and university smelled, because if I wasn’t attending a non-theater class, working, or sleeping, I was in that room. I studied in that room, hung out in that room, met with my friends in that room. I fell in love in that room more than once. Those memories are so vivid, and, to this day, every time I attend a live performance, I get choked up with missing that experience.
So, when I was offered a chance to review Fallout by Sadie Jones, I didn’t hesitate. I’m so glad. The book didn’t spark as many memories as I had expected, as most of the scenes take place outside the theater, but I did become intrigued by the characters and their choices. I am continually amazed at the varied ways people can screw up their lives – or screw up other people’s lives out of pure selfishness. Jones portrays this beautifully, as Luke and Nina are both products of their parents’ choices. Not only does Jones show us how people can be destroyed emotionally, she realistically shows how some people are able to pull themselves out of their past, while others allow themselves to be defined by it.
The relationships in Fallout are complex and convoluted, and Luke is at the center of all of them. He is dynamic and intensely talented, but also naive to the effect he has on people. His relationships with Paul and Leigh and Nina are, by turns, dysfunctional, healing, and instructive, as many of our own relationships are. There were many frustrating moments as I read, wanting characters to make different choices, and yet fully understanding their inability to do so. I will say that the ending was a surprise to me – but one that I absolutely loved.