After briefly introducing the novel, Warzel writes of the unlikely affection we begin to feel for Alphabet's illiterate protagonist, Simon Austen, who was incarcerated for murdering his girlfriend during a moment of sexually-charged passion:
The reader is drawn to [Simon's] innate intelligence, his sense of humor, his delight in learning how to read and write to fill the time of his life sentence. Page sees the dichotomy of the dark and light side of her character as critical to the story. “I accept that both are true—the terrible side to these men, but the damaged, human facet also,” she says. This encompasses the question at the heart of this fine novel: Can a man, a murderer, insensitive to the violence around him, become functional, sympathetic, create and sustain relationships on a personal level? “Simon strikes me with sympathy and horror, sympathy and suspicion," says Page. "It is his 'bothness.'"It may be this complexity of character—not just with regard to Simon Austen, but with all the characters, both criminal and "correctional," that accompany him during his journey through the prison system—that made Alphabet such a celebrated novel in the U.K. and Canada in 2005, and make it one of the best American releases of 2014.
This important and compelling work took ten years to find its way to American readers, but we agree with Mr. Warzel: Alphabet was worth the wait.