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Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by…

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome

by Crystal King

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6311265,151 (3.81)10



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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A good assemblage of fact and speculation that involves food and politics at the highest levels in 1st century Rome. The protagonist is a good guy head cook who becomes the intimate of one of Rome's uber-rich but strangely unconnected patricians, Marcus Gavius Apicius. In fact the weakest aspects of the story are that Apicius is such a wanna be with only a harpy mother, wife and daughter as relations. This is a not entirely pleasant visit to a re-created Rome at the end of Augustus' reign and into Tiberius's. ( )
  quondame | Aug 1, 2018 |
I really like Historical Fiction and this one did not disappoint. I found it very interesting!
The life of a cook in Ancient Rome that started as a slave and his life and the life of his owner and how the decisions of his owner, and eventual friend, decided his future ... Very, very good :-)

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Jun 19, 2018 |
Absolutely amazing book. I loved every second of it and can't wait to read more from this author. The descriptions of food, the time period, the rivalry between the characters-all of it was riveting to read. The book is told from the point of view of a slave in a very aristocratic household. His character brought balance and allowed the reader to feel great sympathy for the storyline! I highly recommend this book. ( )
  melaniehope | Apr 1, 2018 |
Loved the idea of what sounded like a foodie book set in ancient Rome. Thrasius is a gifted chef who is purchased for his talents. His new master Marcus Gavius Apicius intends to use the creations of his slave to play politics, win favors and basically survive the reign of Augustus Caesar. Meanwhile, Thrasius must navigate a new household, his master's flitting desires and demands, falling in love with the handmaiden of his master's daughter, etc.

Sounds exciting, right? Ancient Roman intrigue plus an epicurean exploration of the meals and foodstuffs of the time? It's like HBO's 'Rome' met one of those food exploration documentary types. Sign me up!

Unfortunately, the book doesn't quite meet this threshold. I think a review pinpoints the problem: the author falls into the trap of trying to mash real historical events with this fictitious story she created. Granted, we weren't going to see much of the elites and nobility but attempting to fit the two together creates perhaps too many problems for the book to overcome. At least with 'Rome' there were separate threads and separate storylines with the occasional meeting and crossover. But here it seems the author is trying a bit too hard to put Thrasius in the thick of things.

As the story begins it looks like he'll have to dodge and evade his master's rather horrible mother. But that gets resolved. Then he's in love with Passia the handmaiden and honorably doesn't want her to sexually assault her when it's clear she visits his bed on his master's orders. That has a happy ending. Thrasius becomes a pawn in the game between Apicius and whatever opponent. That also gets a resolution. Which was fine but all of this just seemed like to set Thrasius for the rest of the story and it does feel like just a series of snapshots of his life rather than a tale with an overarching plot (there is one with Sejanus, but by that point it just feels rather boring).

The writing was decent to keep me reading to know what happens but I found it wasn't something that could always keep my attention. However, I ended up not caring about the food and not being particularly impressed overall. While I thought some characters did get some good development and I did feel for the deaths of certain characters at the same time it was also possible to predict what would happen due to the author's characterization of the non-historical characters. It's also not a happy book (if you've seen 'I, Claudius' you won't be surprised) and there's quite a bit here: spousal abuse and rape, domestic violence, slaves that are abused and killed (sometimes for the most minor infractions), pedophilia/pederasty, murder, suicide, child abuse (sexual and physical), children being executed, matricide, etc. It's not in great detail but it's there. I realize that it's Ancient Rome and it's not being described in the nitty gritty but it was still uncomfortable to read at times.

I guess it's a 2.5 but in the end I just feel like this could have been SO much more and that this ended up as a bit of a miss. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 20, 2018 |
This book is the featured selection at Cook the Books for December/January. Thank you Debra for choosing this one....I was completely engaged with this story. Food, drink, historical content, political maneuvering, joy and yes....sorrow.

Be prepared to be intoxicated with vivid descriptions of lavish meals and the preparation for wickedly decadent parties. I enjoy historical fiction as it gives me appetite (pun intended) to learn more about the real characters.

Your heart will go out to Thrasius, the slave purchased for an astronomical sum to become head chef for Marcus Apicus. The story is told from his point of view and I found it very interesting, especially the depictions of real life characters such as Apicus, Apicata, Pliny, Sejanus and Drusus.

Apicus was maniacal in his quest to become Caesar's culinary adviser and the journey to secure his dream was amazing. I will try and find more books about him. He didn't realize wealth alone wouldn't pave the way.

The actual rendering of Marcus Apicus surprised me a bit as I envisioned Gerard Butler while reading the book. What visual came to mind as Apicus was losing his temper or sweet talking the guests? It was Butler for me. Totally.

The treason and infidelities committed in this book makes for a good plot. I was simultaneously fascinated and saddened to see innocents drawn in, suffering undeserved consequences. The ending chapters were indeed horrifying but I can't give away the plot. It all comes together and I could have read more.

With so many meals to choose from you can't go wrong, although I was never tempted to have fried flamingo tongues or hyacinth bulbs. Spinach Pie did sound like a winner. So that was made in addition to a shrimp paella served with liberal amounts of white wine and homemade bread. (photos on my blog)

The treat, the decadent addition to the table for us, is a cheese we've never had called Jasper Hill Harbison. It's a soft ripened cheese wrapped in strips of spruce cambium. See it below? It's actual spruce wrapping. The most unique cheese we have ever had and whoa....so delicious. Instead of using a knife I used a mini spatula to dip into the cheese for spreading. Maybe they made something like this in ancient Roman times, using tree bark. It's wonderful.

You have until January 31, 2018 to read and review if you'd care to hook up. I recommend this historical accounting of Apicus and ancient Rome. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Dec 12, 2017 |
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"Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King's seminal debut features the man who inspired the world's oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction. On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar's reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure. Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius's help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius's household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia, whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome"--… (more)

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