Read Alphabet by Kathy Page Online


In Thatcher's Britain, barely out of his teens, highly intelligent but illiterate and with a childhood of care homes and fostering behind him, Simon Austen is sent down for life for murdering his girlfriend. He did it but he doesn't know why - or maybe doesn't want to know why. Or both . . . Then Simon makes an important decision to rehabilitate himself on his own terms. HIn Thatcher's Britain, barely out of his teens, highly intelligent but illiterate and with a childhood of care homes and fostering behind him, Simon Austen is sent down for life for murdering his girlfriend. He did it but he doesn't know why - or maybe doesn't want to know why. Or both . . . Then Simon makes an important decision to rehabilitate himself on his own terms. He learns to read and write; then, daringly, from his high security prison, begins an illicit correspondence with members of the opposite sex. Language suddenly takes on a new significance and the world opens up. But what kind of relationships are possible for a man who has committed an appalling crime? As Simon puts it: What will she be like? And who will I become? Through Simon's journey into himself, his search for answers, sometimes perilous and always unpredictable, we are forced to explore both our understanding of identity and our ambivalent attitudes to crime, justice and the possibility of redemption. ...

Title : Alphabet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780753818619
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Alphabet Reviews

  • Bonnie
    2019-04-21 08:06

    Nominated for a Governor General's award in 2005Alphabet is the story about a man named Simon Austen who serves a life sentence in a high security prison for strangling his girlfriend. The prison is in Britain.Learning to read and write is his first step towards rehabilitation. He begins, illicitly, to correspond with a series of women on the outside.Painfully, slowly, the protagonist’s personality undergoes a change.He wonders: what kind of relationship is possible for a man like me?Accept the fact that you will end up sympathizing with this murderer. Be prepared to find yourself right inside Simon’s head, not necessarily a place you want to be. Expect to stay up all night to finish reading.This novel – to quote the back cover – is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of {2004).

  • Jill
    2019-03-30 02:03

    The first words that came to mind when I finished this marvel of a novel were from an Oscar Wilde sonnet: “Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss. The brave man with a sword!”Alphabet is a book about a prisoner named Simon Austen – imprisoned in the British penal system and also imprisoned in his inability to achieve redemption for a heinous crime – and it’s also about the power of words.After strangling his girlfriend because he could not handle the feelings that intimacy engendered (revealed very early on), Simon ritually tattoos his body with loathing words of self-definition: MURDERER, WASTE OF SPACE, WEIRDO, ARROGANT, CALLOUS.Yet while serving life in an cruel system that can – at any moment – erupt into violence and self-negation, Simon learns the power of the pen. He begins to write letters to strangers on the outside, first providing a false version of himself and gradually writing more and more authentically. “It’s just a piece of paper, but he’s sitting there with it in his hand like it was some kind of life or death thing and that, he suddenly finds himself thinking, is the trouble with letters: the way they have their own existence, independent of both writer and reader, the way they can continue to have an effect even after you might have changed your mind…”In a lacerating portrait, Kathy Page does not shrink at creating a character for whom most tender-hearted readers should not have any sympathy…yet infusing him with complex feelings and a push for transcendence. Indeed, Simon Austen embarks on the true Hero’s Journey, from the depths of the prison system to an experimental program, which, in its own way, causes more pain than all the gang-beating and sordidness of the traditional model. But more importantly, the journey takes him from being closed in in his own personal prison to finding his way to the two simple words that can free him: “I’m sorry.”Alphabet – and its in-depth look at an unsettling character who is both manipulative and seductive yet brilliant and sensitive – is amazing. Ms. Page gets inside the deviant mind and reveals it to us – her readers – in ways I have rarely seen before. Alphabet gets an A+ from me.

  • Jackie
    2019-04-22 02:10

    A wonderful psychological drama. In-mate Simon is terrifyingly pleasant some of the time, the rest he's just terrifying. He admits he commited the crime and he's trying so hard to find redemption but he, and those trying to help him, are struggling to get into his mind. I was blown away by this book and when I learnt that author Kathy Page was a writer in residence in a men's prison it wasn't a surprise. Her attention to detail is brilliant, the picture she draws of prison life in the 80s in Britain is sobering.

  • Melinda Worfolk
    2019-04-22 02:43

    This book is oddly compelling. I kept wanting to find out what was going to happen, so I kept reading, despite the fact that the protagonist is a rather unlikable person. (He's serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend.) Strangely, he becomes a much more sympathetic character as the book progresses. One of the strongest suits of the author's writing is her ability to write in third person in a way that makes it seem like it's first person. She really lets us into the main character's head...and it's not necessarily a place we want to be. The other thing about this book is that it made me think a lot about prison conditions and the (in)humane treatment of prisoners. I kept thinking that I would not be able to survive one hour in either of the two prisons our protagonist stays in. It raises interesting questions: if we put criminals in prison and treat them inhumanely, what happens when, inevitably, most of them are released back into society? Do our prisons actually make people worse than when they went in?Anyway, great book. I highly recommend it.

  • Melynda
    2019-04-25 01:50

    Difficult topic approached in such a manner that you couldn't put it down. Not necessarily a book to "enjoy" as much as admire. Thought provoking on the value of skill training for inmates, and on the need for forgiveness in order to move on for both victim and perpetrator.

  • Greta Wright
    2019-04-08 01:47

    Very different. Very raw, not for the easily offended. A fascinating look at an angry (but likable) man's British jail time.

  • Madeleine LeBlanc
    2019-04-11 09:46

    Lu en français et découvert par hasard lors d'une de mes balades en bibliothèque. Le sujet m'a attirée tout de suite: un prisonnier condamné à vie suit un programme expérimental de réhabilitation. L'approche délicate du sujet et la personnalité particulière du personnage principal, fasciné par les lettres de l'alphabet, ont fini de m'accrocher. J'ai écrit à l'auteure pour lui faire part de la réflexion que son histoire avait suscité chez moi: ne sommes-nous pas tous prisonnier de quelque chose? N'avons-nous pas tous nos limites qui nous torturent et nous font demander si on peut jamais changer? Ne nous débattons-nous pas toujours à l'intérieur de nous-mêmes, comme prisonnier d'un même espace qui nous étouffe parfois? Un livre qui fait réfléchir quoi.

  • Patricia
    2019-04-02 01:45

    Spanning thirteen years, the fictional story of Simon Austen, an inmate incarcerated for murdering his girlfriend, Amanda Brooks, in 1979. The novel explores layers of the psychology of male inmates, their struggles with female relationships, childhood circumstances which led some of the young men to violence, their desire or lack thereof to examine their behaviors, attitudes, and to make change in their lives. Simon borrows library books while in prison and begins to define words and life with letters from the alphabet. His body is covered with word tattoos defining his ego, self-doubt, and emotions. Simon has "healthy" correspondence relationships with women. He misleads Vivienne Anne Whilden as to his true identity and she dumps him upon learning he is an inmate. A dysfunctional teen, Tasmin Rolls-Hamilton, needs more help than Simon. Simon is infatuated with his social worker, Bernadette Nightingale, and he uses sexual images of her in his therapy. A transvestite inmate, Victor, who becomes Charlotte final helps open psychological doors to Simon's future. Interesting twist of literature.

  • Kate Vane
    2019-04-19 08:58

    This is a brave book. Its protagonist is Simon, who is serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend. During his sentence, he learns to read and write. As an intelligent and manipulative man, he sees the opportunities this brings to him – not only does he now have a saleable skill, but he begins writing to women outside the prison.He also begins a course of therapy. Reading and writing have given him the power to look beyond the confined world in which he finds himself. But Simon will have to make himself vulnerable if he is to understand what he has done and what it meant. And in prison that brings risks.Page brilliantly captures the way prison is both tedious and terrifying. Her prose is understated and there is a bleak humour which runs through the book. By telling the story from Simon's point of view, she challenges the reader. We identify with Simon as he confronts the dangers of change, and the possibility of redemption. Like him we have to face up to the implications.

  • Roger Boyle
    2019-03-25 02:00

    [Bill in Halifax told me about this]I'll give this 5 as it convinced my totally, and was a great experience on the way.The central character is in the nick for good reasons for a very long time and Page builds a picture of him and his inner self that seems compellingly accurate. The reviews from authoritative critics seem to confirm this, and she does it in a way that also creates a page turner. Forget all those televisations of UK prison life - this seems to be the real deal. But then - she spent a year as Writer in Residence at a UK nick and so, all the more, it seems likely that she knows what she is talking about.And it's an examination of a chap with serious inner demons and his wrestling with them, which is not always pretty.There's something just a little bit contrived about the closing developments but that's OK - it's not implausible at all. I'll read more of her books.[Some 40 years ago I knew the author - she won't remember me, but I feel honoured!]

  • Erin
    2019-04-05 07:52

    This was not like a book I normally read. Much less pleasant and real-world-y. I wonder how realistic of a depiction of life in prison (in the late 80s-90s in Britain) this is. I'm sure prison is not fun either way. Don't think I would read it again but I did need to finish it to find out what happened.(view spoiler)[ Of course, then it sort of just ended. I mean, there was character development and all that, A LOT of character development, but he still ended up still on his prison sentence. I was hoping maybe there would be another chapter where he meets the mom of the girl he murdered, like she requested, or something. There were lots of threads that didn't quite get finished at the end. Also what is happening with Charlotte?(hide spoiler)]

  • Lindsay
    2019-03-26 02:01

    * Admission: I judged this book by its cover. I was immediately drawn to the thick heavy paper with the obsessively typed letters, layers and layers and layers of them. I'm expecting a similarly stratified character in Simon. I liked this, but I need to know so much more about Simon. A more detailed history would have been a good addition to the study of what makes Simon, Simon. Also, I know that this study could have gone on without end, seemingly like his life sentence, but the abrupt ending left me needing more. I'd love to read a sequel.

  • Kathleen McRae
    2019-03-31 09:02

    This story shows the difference between a society that looks after its vulnerable and one that allows cracks to appear in the fabric of society.Simon a lifer has ad a very sad life.A single incapable mother who deserts him and a child welfare system that abandons him to the many cracks.His illiteracy alienates him on many levels and he is basically unable to even have a conversation with himself.He commits murder and becomes a lifer but a decision to learn to read opens up new worlds and ideas and even painful self reflexion.

  • Isla McKetta
    2019-03-27 03:51

    Surprising and cleanly written, this book taught me a lot about how to create empathy for any character. I've never loved a book so much that was so far outside my normal reading wheelhouse and I credit all of that to Page's writing mastery. Well worth a read whether you loved Orange is the New Black but were looking for something deeper about prison or if you don't give a whit about prison lit. It's that good.

  • Shawn Towner
    2019-04-09 08:03

    A phenomenal first third of the book, but the quality eventually wanes around the midpoint of the book, as the author moves away from focusing on the improvement of a murderer into an investigation of alternative treatments for criminals. Towards the end of the third part of the book, there's a return to a more character-rehabilitation-driven focus, but by that point I had largely lost interest in the book.

  • Nicole
    2019-04-23 07:08

    It did take me a little while to get through this book. I was on a reading binge and I think I wore myself out. But halfway in I really started to feel for the main character, even though he murdered his girlfriend for no reason whatsoever. Good job Kathy Page. It was a very interesting look at prisons and prison life and what goes on in reforming and reshaping the criminals so the can enter the world again and not end up back in prison.

  • Leslie Salas
    2019-04-17 03:44

    Sophisticated psychological story of a man trapped by his need to control women and his growth during his incarceration. I found the structure and pacing of the novel to be spot on. Tone and mood were so appropriately executed that it was easy to like this unlikable protagonist. The setting and characters all feel authentic, flawed, vulnerable, and proud.

  • sisterimapoet
    2019-03-26 05:54

    Interesting idea. Following a prisoner as he learns to write and then writes his way through his sentence, coming to understand more and more about himself and the motivations behind his crime. Thrilling, emotionally engaging and interesting. It seems Page made good use of her time as Writer in Residence at a prison.

  • Emily
    2019-03-28 07:57

    The 505 Vine book club chose this because we wanted to read something that would make us uncomfortable. It explores the question, "Are education and therapy sufficient to rehabilitate a confessed murderer--how much can a person really change?" I enjoyed seeing what Simon did on his own in addition to, and sometimes in contrast to, his formal therapy.

  • Scotchneat
    2019-04-01 05:02

    A young man is sentenced to life in prison in England and, in the guise of "therapy", he learns to read, and starts writing letters to women on the outside.Of course, our sympathies end up with Simon, despite what he's done. Page does a good job of developing him as evil and sympathetic at the same time.I'm pretty sure this book was nominated for the GGs.

  • Chrystal
    2019-03-31 06:02

    A beautifully written, excruciating read. My mind wanting to stop reading more than once, but my eyes and hands wouldn't let me. Simon and his alphabet will be stuck in my brain forever, whether I like it or not.

  • Lois Plale
    2019-04-15 07:46

    The story of a man in prison for murder and his attempts at rehabilitation.

  • Vanessa Bennett
    2019-03-30 01:55

    Intelligently written.

  • Barb
    2019-04-16 06:45

    Good read, honest and brutal at times..a good commentary on the penal system, and does rehabilitation really work for sex offenders?

  • Christine
    2019-03-25 05:59

    Didn't finish horrible book :-(

  • Michelle
    2019-04-23 04:02

    Story of convicted murder; his experiences of prison, and of how, by learning to read and write, he opens himself up to an entire world of understanding and communication.

  • Carol
    2019-04-06 04:11

    Interesting subject, very well written and researched. Thoroughly enjoyed it.....maybe because it made me review my opinions/prejudices. Books that can do that are, in my opinion, invaluable.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-11 08:06

    This was an interesting read, althoughI found the ending somewhat abrupt.

  • Barb
    2019-04-03 06:08

    Just not the book for me at this time.

  • Tricia Dower
    2019-04-04 09:45

    A fabulous book for its voice, plot and setting. Page does an incredible job of getting into the head of a troubled young man. One of my favourite-ever books. Powerful and moving.