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John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

John Saturnall's Feast (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Lawrence Norfolk

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2662142,770 (3.58)16
Title:John Saturnall's Feast
Authors:Lawrence Norfolk
Info:Grove Press (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:fict, library, 2012

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John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (2012)



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John Sandall (or Saturnall) has a gift for recognizing all the ingredients in a dish by taste or scent. As 17th century Somerset is gripped by puritanical fervour, he and his goodwife mother are driven out as witches. But John's demon tastebuds make him the perfect cook. Taken in at the local Manor and trained in their kitchens, he must weather new challenges as England slides into Civil War.

It's a leisurely journey of grace notes rather than action and there's little originality in what passes for the base plot, but what a delightful dish this is: historical food porn with a dash of romance and religion. John is a satisfyingly complex character, and I enjoyed the willful yet dutiful Lady Lucretia as his foil. Most of the supporting cast are stereotypes at best, particularly the antagonists (the cowardly drunk chevalier; the lustful lay preacher; the mean kitchen boy), but there is also an array of warm-hearted good folk (I had a particular soft spot for Josh Palewick).

Not entirely what I expected, but thoroughly enjoyable and well-served. But the joy here is in the food. If you're not fascinated by historical banqueting, you probably shouldn't bother. ( )
  imyril | Jan 12, 2015 |
Set in the 17th Century just before and during the civil war, this book showed a lot of promise. John Saturnall and his mother, a suspected witch are driven out of their home by puritanical villagers. The only thing that John and his mother have left is a book setting out an ancient feast, that has been lost to the people, and John dreams of creating this feast again! He has a fantastic nose and can smell out the tiniest ingredients in recipes. He gets a job as a kitchen boy in the Manor's kitchen and works his way up to the top. I really love the descriptions of the food preparation, the Kitchens and the equipment used and there are some wonderful recipes written in ancient language. The under laying story however was, for me a little bit disappointing! The portion of the book recounting the fighting during the civil war, I found almost incomprehensible, muddled up and confusing. It's fascination came and went for me, starting so well, but going a bit flat half way through. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Dec 26, 2013 |
Een geweldig mooi boek. Fraaie geromantiseerde historie. Het leukst is wel het sausje magie over het verhaal over een voor-paradijs geschiedenis uit de tijd dat alles mooi en goed was en iedereen leefde van wat het land opbracht. Wie wil nou niet in dat Utopia leven ? Eerijk gezegd vond ik het eerste deel van het boek wel mooier en indringender dan het tweede deel - dat is allemaal wat platvloerser. ( )
  JaapNoordzij | Nov 13, 2013 |
Norfolk's novel is beautifully presented as a physical object, with a striking cover and lovely woodblock prints. The depiction of the 17th century kitchen is fascinating, too. There are many sensual details, whether it's the slick feel of the greasy troughs that the scullery boys must scrape out as they clean the plates, or the spit and hiss of the juice dripping from a pig as it is slowly turned over the fire. The reader really gets a feel of the military precision in which a kitchen of that era was run. Pity it's welded to an utterly banal plot that either slows to a crawl or skims too fast, and with many jolting shifts in time and point-of-view to add to the headache. Wild-eyed fanatical puritans and drunken, cowardly suitors without a smidgen of grey--you'll find them here, too. There's the usual nonsense of the almost-raped virgin tumbling into bed with her rescuer mere moments after the assault and some poorly-explained mystical tosh about a long-lost feast from the people from the hollow hills that the main character wishes to regain. Or something. ( )
  gaeta1 | Nov 9, 2013 |
OMNOMNOM! Ich steh ja auf exzessive Essensbeschreibungen. Viel mehr passiert da auch nicht, reicht aber aus. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
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Book description
Haiku summary
From kitchen boy to
Master Cook: John Saturnall
Recreates the Feast.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802120512, Hardcover)

A beautiful, rich and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house, and rises through the ranks to become the greatest Cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.

Orphaned when his mother dies of starvation, having been cast out of her village as a witch, John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor, where he quickly rises from kitchen-boy to Cook, and is known for his uniquely keen palate and natural cooking ability. However, he quickly gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the Lord of the Manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiancé is an arrogant buffoon. When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger until her father calls off her engagement to her insipid husband-to-be, it falls to John to try to cook her delicious foods that might tempt her to break her fast.

Reminiscent of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, John Saturnall’s Feast is a brilliant work and a delight for all the senses.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor after the cruel death of his mother, young John quickly rises from kitchen boy to cook before catching the attention of the daughter of the lord of the manor, who resolves to starve herself until her father calls off her unwanted engagement.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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