What will she be like? he thinks. I don’t know.
Who will I become? Ditto. A leap in the dark…

“…a wonderful book, peculiar, intense, revealing, challenging, exhausting and above all riveting…I kept saying to myself, how could she know this?” Guardian (UK) columnist Erwin James (author of A Life Inside)

Simon Austen is serving a life sentence for murder. Intelligent but illiterate, charming but also damaged and manipulative, he admits to what he’s done but his motives are far from clear, even to himself.

Then Simon learns to read and write. From his high security prison he begins an illicit correspondence with a series of women. The more he learns – about them and about himself – the higher the stakes become. Simon finds himself on a perilous and unpredictable journey as he stumbles towards self-knowledge and redemption.

Alphabet is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of  the year…It is a measure of the quiet artistry of Alphabet that, out of material that would have been at home in the blackest of black comedies, Kathy Page has celebrated, with rare deftness, the resilience of the human heart.” Sunday Telegraph

“Sometimes novelists go too far – and sometimes they manage to demonstrate that too far is the place they needed to go.” Time Out

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, UK, in July 2004 UK; released October 2004 in Canada by McArthur & Company. Finalist for a Governor General’s Award in 2005.  First published in the USA by Biblioasis, 2014.

Alphabet by Kathy Page, US jacket by Kate Hargreaves“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.” Kirkus starred review

Reviews and Comments

Purchase Alphabet from Munro’s Books


Video of Kathy Page talking about Alphabet and The Find


Reviews and Comments
On Writing Alphabet
Excerpt from the book, Alphabet
Excerpt of Article “Big Love” from The Big Issue July 2004
Readers Guide to Alphabet: download PDF Format
Reader’s Guide to Alphabet: download Word Format

Interview with Kathy Page on BBC

Author reading from Alphabet

Prison Reform Trust

Guardian – Prisons Story
The Sunday Times Magazine