This is a review of the 2007 book 'Sadie' by Jane Elliott who is well known for writing her biography 'The Little Prisoner' - a book about the abuse she suffered as a child. The book 'Sadie' is a work of fiction but again centres on the terrible abuse children can be subjected to if their parents let it happen.
A bit about....
In Sadie, the story begins in 1985 in a Manchester prison. One of the inmates (a lifer) needs to prove his hardness and picks his next victim to bolster his reputation as the prisoner not to be messed with. It's easy to pick on a child abuser as it does everyone a favour so Allen Campbell gets knife attacked in jail. Five years later the story really begins, in London, following 13 year old Sadie and her alcoholic mother Jackie. Jackie hooks up with the very same Allen who moves in to their flat as Sadie's new dad, which upsets Sadie a lot as it's not that long since her real dad died. Allen quickly sorts a job out for Jackie, making sure she is out of the house most of the time and he becomes Sadie's worst nightmare.
Sadie is an admirable character, tough at school, bright and sharp, a bit naughty (shoplifting chocolate) and clever. At school she shows a caring side, sticking up for the school's little smelly kid who is bullied. She already has a difficult life looking after her unstable mother but copes with this until Allen's arrival.
As with all books that touch on children in the social care system, teachers are mentioned and of course there is always one that is concerned but held back by others from acting on their behalf. Sadie's English teacher is aware to an extent that Sadie has a difficult home life but she is distracted by the other child she teaches (Jamie) who turns up with bruises and in a bad state. Sadie always rebuffs the teacher's attempts to help her and assures her she is fine so it is left at that.
Allen is a nasty and sadistic character, using Sadie to get what he wants and bullying and tormenting her both mentally and physically. Jackie is a weak character who we never really get to know much. Sadie both loves and hates her in equal measures as she cannot provide properly for her due to her addiction. On the side lines are other characters like Lionel the sex shop owner, his son Michael and his girlfriend Esther. These people help build up the storyline and add to the suspense.
The book briefly dips in at 1985, returns five years later for part one and then jumps ahead 14 years later to Sadie in her thirties so you really do find out exactly what happens to her in this book. The book is told mainly from Sadie's view point except where it follows Jackie or Allen to explain some other parts of the storyline which are vital to the book's conclusion.
Sadie has an unenviable life and yet she still manages to survive on a day to day basis. She is tough and knows when she needs to flee from situations. This is one of those books that it is hard to say 'I enjoyed reading this' as it is quite hard to accept a lot of the content which is harsh and scary. I read the book really quickly and the latter half really did a good job in bringing the story round and you are left wanting to know if Sadie ever gets closure or justice on all the awful things that have happened to her in her lifetime.
The author is clearly close to her subject in this book and writes first hand of the fear she feels at the sound of his footsteps approaching on the stairs. I just can't imagine the terror and loneliness that children in this situation must feel and it is certainly a book that has made me think more about how lucky I am in life to have always had a roof over my head, money in my pocket and a good circle of friends and family.
I can recommend this book as a good read but would add that it's not one for the faint hearted. There are some extreme scenes in the book and it is very emotive. The fact that it is fiction helps you to write off a lot of what happens but it is clearly close to the truth for the Author's own life.