Set in the 1970s, ‘Fallout’ by Sadie Jones tells the story of Luke Kanowski, a young playwright whose mother is mentally ill and father is an alcoholic. Trying to make his break in London, he shares a flat with his friend, Paul Driscoll, and Paul’s girlfriend, Leigh Radley, who both share Luke’s passion for theatre. Although initially drawn to Leigh, Luke meets and falls in love with Nina Jacobs, an aspiring actress married to a manipulative West End producer.
Last month, I read Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell which shares many similarities with ‘Fallout’. Most notably, the two novels have very similar settings. Both O’Farrell and Jones have a sparse style of writing and their stories are driven by the characters. The historical detail is also fairly light in the novels. There is some description of the London theatre scene in ‘Fallout’ which feels authentic thanks to Jones’ family background in the industry.
As with The Outcast‘which I read a couple of years ago, Jones is excellent at creating a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere. Some of the scenes between Nina and her husband Tony are particularly harrowing. Yet Nina is also weak as well as fragile and it is this weakness which proves to be the most destructive element of her affair with Luke. Jones has recently said in an interview that she was “completely bored by the strong female heroine” and thinks Nina is “loathsome”. I certainly found Nina more memorable as a character than Leigh although I think many readers will pity her rather than actively dislike her. If you have read ‘Fallout’, I would love to know what you think of Nina and Jones’ perception of her.
A story with the title ‘Fallout’ featuring two overlapping love triangles was never going to have a particularly happy or straightforward ending and the final outcome is tragically inevitable with no real surprises. However, fans of ‘The Outcast’ will certainly enjoy the intensity of ‘Fallout’ which I think is overall a more rounded and skilfully written story compared to Jones’ debut novel.