Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Literary Feast - Mini-Review of "John Saturnall's Feast" by Lawrence Norfolk

Lawrence Norfolk loves food, cooking, history and literature. These are the main ingredients of his delectable novel, "John Saturnall's Feast," set in the 17th Century. John Saturnall has been born out of wedlock to Susan, who may be a witch or just a very gifted woman who can grow anything and cook it up into a feast that resembles the mythical meal served to Adam and Eve in Paradise. Each chapter begins with a reproduction of a recipe from the 1600's. It is a wonderful conceit.

After Susan is hounded to death by the superstitious villagers, John is bequeathed to the Manor where Susan had once been in service. About to be sent to the Poor House, John astounds the cook in the kitchen by correctly identifying all of the complex ingredients of a stew. He is set on a path that eventually leads him to become Master Cook of that kitchen, cook and taster to King Charles I, and illicit lover to the daughter of the Lord of the Manor.

The tale is lovingly told, the culinary and narrative ingredients are described in detail - each character adding his or her own subtle spice to this well-prepared and slowly-cooked literary feast.



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