“Gritty and illuminating … fascinating from the first page.”—Publishers Weekly
“A moving novel about knowledge, self-awareness and the power of words, set in the purgatory of prison. This young man’s life demands our attention and refuses to let go … powerful … simply an epiphany.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review, May 2014
Simon Austen has the names people have called him tattooed all over his body. Waste of Space. Bastard. A Threat to Women. Murderer. Facing a lifetime behind bars and subjected to new therapies for sexual reprogramming, Simon finds himself plunged into a terrifying process of self-reconstruction. But how much, in the end, can a man really change? Darkly compelling and deeply moving, Alphabet is a psychological exploration of one man’s uncertain and often-harrowing journey towards rehabilitation.
Praise for Alphabet
“Alphabet transforms from a novel of crime and punishment into a nuanced psychological profile of a killer, ultimately providing a gut-wrenching reminder of the … lengths to which we are willing to go in order to protect our innermost selves. … Heartbreaking and emotional.”—Shelf Awareness, Shelf Discovery Pick
“Despite the nature of his crime, Simon is a surprisingly sympathetic character, and readers with an open mind will be drawn into his journey … an emotional read without sentimentality or easy, pat answers … Recommended.”—Library Journal
“Page’s breathtaking novel opens with functionally illiterate twenty-nine-year-old Simon learning to read in prison. Books and letters become keys to his survival, but can language sustain him over an entire life sentence, let alone redeem him? We get to know Simon before we learn what crime he committed; his act shapes his life, but does not define him. We do learn that he has anger and control issues and that his relationships, especially with women, have been short term, starting with his mother. Written words, then, fixed and tangible, reassure him to the point that he physically incorporates them as tattoos. He wears the names he’s been called, but whether this catalog clarifies or blurs his identity is a question; can he be both scum and “courageous”? More than skin deep, this list reflects Simon’s world as much as it does him, mirroring society’s mixed record on transgressors and non-conformists, especially regarding the criminal justice system with its self-defeating reliance on brutality and humiliations, even as it experiments with innovative psycho-therapies.”—Laurie Greer, Bookseller, Politics & Prose
“If you like fiction that makes you a little uncomfortable (but still has a compelling voice), try Alphabet by Kathy Page. The narrator is in prison in the UK for killing his girlfriend, and we see his various coping mechanisms and treatments and eventual attempts to learn how to connect with people in a healthy way. His journey will surprise you.”—Emily Pullen, Bookseller, WORD Bookstores
“Alphabet upends basic questions about criminal justice … This character-driven novel employs various narrative angles as the reader follows Simon, other prisoners, guards, social workers, volunteers, and therapists through the complications that lie beyond a person admitting guilt. Far from accepting time in prison as an atonement to abide, Simon tries to name who he is and what that person could do next in life, behind bars or otherwise.”—Todd Wellman, Bookseller, Boswell Book Co.
“Page captures the oppressiveness of the closed insitution, the violence that always seethes beneath the surface … compelling … Page lifts the novel out of its didactic casing.”—Times Literary Supplement (UK)
“Alphabet is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of the year…. Out of material that would have been at home in the blackest of black comedies she has fashioned a fable about redemptive love. She has celebrated, with rare deftness, the resilience of the human heart.”—Sunday Telegraph, UK
“Page throws mixed-up hope into a world where only fantasies and delusions dare to grow… when I got to the end ofAlphabet, I found myself longing for more.”—Globe and Mail (Canada)