Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Major Themes: Celts, Galley Slaves, Roman Britain
Synopsis: As an infant he was the sole survivor of a shipwreck; as a teenager he was cast out of his adoptive tribe; as a young man he was a galley slave.
Outcast is one of our favorite books by Rosemary Sutcliff. The story begins on a stormy night along the coast of Britain during the Roman occupation. A ship is wrecked on the rocks, and the only survivor is a tiny baby boy tied to his parents, who are killed on the rocks. He is adopted by a tribesman and his wife whose firstborn has just died, against the will of the local Druid priest who predicts he will bring trouble to the tribe. When a drought and plague come to the area some 15 years later, Beric is cast out and told never to return. He decides to join the Roman Eagles, since his birth father had been a Roman.
When Beric arrives at a Roman fort late in the evening, a friendly-seeming man offers him a meal and a place to sleep aboard his merchant ship—and Beric finds himself kidnapped as a slave and taken to Rome! Will he ever regain his freedom? Will he ever be able to return to Britain? This engrossing story will give you a vivid picture of Rome in the 1st or 2nd century, as well as of the Celts of Britain at the same time. I haven’t read this one aloud to the family, but my 12-year-old couldn’t put it down.
WARNING: If you’re reading it to younger children, there is one scene in chapter 13 in which Beric, as a galley slave, is flogged, which you might want to preread.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above