Most of Fallout is told as a flashback, but the opening section is very short, so we can say we really encounter Luke Kanowski in 1961, when he is 14. He has busted his mother out of the mental asylum where she’s lived since he was five to take her to visit the art museum in London. The expedition is not a success, but while they are being questioned by a security guard, Nina Hollings notices them.
Nina is with her mother Marianne, a selfish woman who hands her off to her sister Mat when Nina is in her way but reclaims her before she can gain any stability. Later, she does other things to sabotage Nina’s self-confidence. Marianne works sporadically as an actress.
Luke is a young adult when he meets Paul Driscoll and Leigh Radley. He has been working at a mill, but shortly after he meets the two, he decides his life is harmful to him. Luke feels immediate friendship for Leigh and Paul and has soon moved to London. There the three of them work together with a few others to open a new theater.
Leigh has fallen immediately in love with Luke, but Luke is busy seducing practically every woman he meets, so Leigh becomes Paul’s girlfriend. Leigh’s father was unfaithful to her mother, so Leigh decides to stick with the man she feels is safe.
Then Luke meets Nina, who her mother has essentially pimped out to Tony Moore, a theatrical producer. Tony and Nina are soon married, Nina naively not realizing that Tony is using her as his beard. That is, she doesn’t realize until she finds him with two waiters during a party.
Luke’s first play is being produced as he and Nina begin an affair. This affair and the things Luke is willing to do to try to “save” Nina have repercussions for several people.
This novel is completely different from Jones’ The Uninvited Guests, which I enjoyed more. Although I was compelled to read the novel, I really don’t enjoy fiction where men betray themselves for a woman, or vice versa. Usually, the woman in these novels is bad. Nina isn’t, but she is weak and selfish and eventually asks Luke to betray his friends and his art.
Finally, I feel as if the ending of the novel is unrealistically hopeful and pat, when I think of the wreckage that has gone before. The background of the theater and play production with a bit about the politics of theatre is very interesting, though.