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John Saturnall's Feast

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Of the story versus what they have to deal with when the Roundhead soldiers steal the food from the manor and destroy what they cannot take shows how dramatically life can change John falls back on how he and his mother lived in the woods and on what he learned from the book of the Feast He is the hero of the tale for all the people living on the manor What the Feast was is never made clear It s like a myth of a Golden Age when all were euals and food was plentiful Was it a pagan community that had existed in the woods before Christians arrived Was it a myth to comfort the reader a dream to hold onto Did it have a direct bearing on John s ancestors Was the book a semi magical teaching aid that allowed John to excel in the manor kitchens later In the end it doesn t matter It allowed John to hold on and to save the manor John Saturnall s Feast is a story of cycles and renewals both earthly as the wheel of the year turns and spiritually as human hope and happiness comes p again and again Kings raise their Statues and Churchmen build Cathedrals A Cook leaves no Monument save Crumbs His rarest Creations are scraped by Scullions His greatest Dishes are destined for the Dung heap John Saturnall s Feast is a witch s brew of a novelWith its plenitude of culinary adventures and the mystery of the fatherhood it lies somewhere between Wilhelm Hauff s fairytale Dwarf Long Nose and The Unforeseen (Kingdom Keepers, uincunx by Charles PalliserAlso it is a story of the forbidden love The forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge was the only dish that Eve served Adam But their enemies came his mother continued They worshipped a different god A jealous god His priests called him Jehovah They condemned Saturnus as a false idol who had led his people into sin Their amity was lust the priests said Their ease was sloth The Feast was greed So now it s time to reclaim amity ease joy and Feast Basically i just don t have enough patience for books like this The idea of a magical feast that saves the princess is interesting but I m 200 pages in and nothing has happened yet Lots of imaginary food descriptions It s interesting because I ve come across a controversial subject two days in a row in reading John Saturnall s Feast while being a fabulous story and one that had me drooling carries the honor of being a historical novel and as such will get a little leeway from meSo what is that controversial subject It s rape folks It happens in books I get it My issue is when it happens and we re supposed to just forget about it and move on much like the women characters who experience it in the books Now I know in the time period this book is set in rape happens It happened then and I know for sure those women then did not have the resources and information we have today about it s lasting effect They were just affected and then they moved on So this paragraph is all I ll say on the s Since his very notable debut some 20 years ago with Lempriere s Dictionary Mr Norfolk has written only one another major novel Pope s Rhinoceros which was what I expected and I read it only twice across the years but I am rereading it too now starting when I heard a few days ago about hispcoming new novel this one John Saturnall s Feast as for Lempriere maybe this time it s at least my 10th try at it I will manage to get into itAnyway I saw the Nascars Wildest Wrecks upcoming John Saturnall s Feast a few days ago on Net Galley and I obtained a review copy which I expected to take me a while to read see above why noting that Pope s Rhinoceros is also a pretty dense and almost 700 pages long thoughite a rewarding novel that makes one A Land More Kind Than Home understand life in Europe 1520 s better than many historical treatises such is its superb atmosphere and the powerful style of the authorTo my surprise I almost breezed through John Saturnall s Feast as it was very hard to put down but also it stood at about only 400 pages and was written in a much accessible style a pretty straight forward and or less chronological narrative interspersed by fanciful feast recipes according to particular events of importance in the book Actually the style is almost sensuous in a way though the grime and harsh realities of England from around 1630 s till 1662 with an epilogue set a decade or so later are very much in evidence also The book is clearly John s story and the blurb is generally accurate but despite that the main hero is only a cook rather than a knight or such there is adventure heroism seduction battles fanatics The novel is also very visual I was picturingite a lot of it as a Peter Greenaway movie precisely the mixture of the period of Draughtsman s Contract and the feasting of The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover both movies I ve watched a number of timesThough now the cook is the lover too and he does not end on the dinner tableAnyway a highly highly recommended novel and a top 25 of mine for this year while i expect I will reread it Outlaw Bride uite a few times to enjoy its atmosphereI also expect this one to appear on this year Booker prize longlist at the least The merits of this book first It really isite evocative in its descriptions of a cornucopian heavily populated seventeenth century kitchen A lot of research has gone into this but you don t get the dead hand of research Effect So Common In Novels The so common historical novels the of food preparation ingredients recipes arcane kitchen roles and duties are brought together in a convincing and imaginatively compelling brew it s impossible to avoid food metaphors talking about this book I felt that this was probably the heart of the author s vision for the book and he brings it off superblyThe problem for me was that this frankly isn t enough to make a novel or not. Been cast out of her village as a witch John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor where he James Still uickly rises from kitchen boy to Cook and is known for hisniuely keen palate and natural cooking ability However he ickly 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 bu. ,
My second time reading this book I both enjoyed it and also saw of its flaws I loved the 17th century kitchen seeing how things were prepared and following John s journey through the ranks through the war making his wayMy criticisms would be that the story is too good for characters so nder developed I wanted to know about John and Philip and Gemma and Lucretia they were fleshed out but only to a certain point only so far as their roles in the story needed them to be it felt There were also plot points that didn t resolve in a satisfactory way the book the previous cook John s travels once he left the manor Things felt either truncated or tacked on and left me wishing for something deeperAll that said I still give it 4 stars because I loved the style the recipes the idea of the feast and certain parts of the story Native Son uite a lot Was glad to read it again This book had all of the elements that I love in historical fiction the most important being that as I read the story I felt like I was there in the 17th century kitchen beside John watching him and all of the other workers prepare the food I love it when I become so engrossed in a story that I feel I am right there with the characters and Norfolk does a wonderful job of bringing this story to lifeEach chapter begins with a recipe written by John that he prepared for the feasts They were fun to read and the descriptions of the food prepared throughout the book were some of the best I have ever read and I have read a lot of books about food It was interesting to read about how the kitchens were run in a large manor and all of the different jobs there were to do The other part of the book I enjoyed was the love story between John and Lady Lucretia Both characters were strong and likable and they had lots of chemistry together which made the book all the enjoyable This is a great book for any historical fiction fan It is beautifully written complex and has a rich setting full of interesting characters I am very glad that I picked this one to read I think it will be on my list of favorite books of the year Lawrence Norfolk s elegantly written JOHN SATURNALL S FEAST istterlycaptivating An interest in history or the 17th century is not necessary tobecome completely swept away by the story a testament to Norfolk s magicOne needs only a desire to read a beautifully constructed story of a boy whodesperately struggles to stay alive in his young life He is the boy whoemerges from a tragedy in ancient woods only to be thrown into the kitchenof Buckland Manor where he John Saturnall s Feast is set near the start of the English Civil War John is the child of a woman who is a sort of outcast an herbalist and midwife she lives on the outskirts of the village and doesn t go to church Of course this means she is thought of as a witch When a plague runs through the village she is blamed and they are run out of town They take p living in a deserted house in the woods living on late season fruit and chestnuts She is dying of both starvation and disease but before she dies she teaches John to read from a book about a strange feast held in Buccla s Wood It encompasses every form of food fish fowl vegetables sweets mammals are all included and the feast is for everyone not just the rich as is the way of the land at the Time Her Wish After Her Death He Is Taken At her wish after her death he is taken Buckland Manor he is put to work in the vast kitchens John s life changes totally Used to being "alone or with only a couple of people he is now "or with only a couple of people he is now pressed by people on all sides He works every minute of the long day and falls directly into a sleep that never seems to be long enough Still given the time and place it s a good situation Food is abundant here he s living inside and after awhile he gets to learn cooking He s in a better place than a lot of peopleThis is primarily a love story a love that crosses classes and is forbidden preserving estates and titles takes precedence over love It s also an adventure story the kitchen staff marched with the lord of the manor when he went to war supporting King Charles and they were expected to fight with the soldiers I liked the characters They are not likable all the time they do stupid human things sometimes But in the end it s a story about food We might think that cooking back in those days was fairly primitive but it wasn t It was actually very sophisticated One of the culinary trends back then was to create dishes that looked like something else parts of animals and birds sewn together to create a mythical beast meat in pastry to look like a bird sugar creations in the shape of just about anything Cooks vied to create the most elaborate and surprising dishes a sort of Iron Chef Stuarts edition Most of the year the diet was rich and varied the manor supplied fish from its own ponds poultry eggs dairy products pork honey wheat fruit and vegetables they did eat their sallets and much was stored for winter A stable trade system meant the pper classes enjoyed sugar and spices The sheer amount of person power it took to feed a manor was incredible most workers were specialists turning the spits in the kitchen washing the endless stream of dirty dishes plucking fowl managing the fish ponds the dove cote the hen houses the spice room making the salads cutting Laid up the meat and all those people had to be fed too You can see how a book can be created around a kitchen of the era The food and John s relationship to it and how heses it to speak to the lady of the manor is lovingly detailed much so really than the peopleFood was not always plentiful however It was easy to starve back then The stark difference between the incredible plenty of the start. 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 heroOrphaned when his mother dies of starvation having.
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A novel of this conventional kind anyway A plot is needed Norfolk does supply s with one of a fairly conventional ilk protagonist emerges from hideous childhood bearing the odd scar love triumphs across class barriers the ndeserving get their dues the deserving live happily ever after but it s all fairly formulaic and not especially engaging I never at any point reading this novel felt a strong desire to find out what happened next which has to be a bad signThe characterization is especially weak There are a lot of characters but Essential Business Networking uite large numbers of them especially in the Fremantle household in which the bulk of the novel is set never really establish themselves as anything than names Of the workedp characters none struck me as especially memorable Lucretia is particularly He Taught Me to Hope (Darcy and the Young Knights Quest underdeveloped in a way that is problematic for the whole romantic element She seems to me entirely a cipher doing exactly what is needed for the plot at any given moment but without any coherent character that I could discern Some elements of her story are simply laughable such as the supposed climactic moment near the end where she deliberately masuerades as a whorish seductress in order to put Saturnall off her and hence spare his feelings at least I think that s supposed to be what happens I must say I had rather givenp on the novel by that pointThe villains are also a weak point Clough Marpot Piers Callock I didn t think anyone did completely Knights of the Hill Country unregenerate baddies without a hint of redemptive complexity any or at least not three of them in a single novel Frankly they are clich s Marpot is even given the arch villainous characteristic of cold blue eyes at one point just in case we were in any doubt of his general iniuityI found it interesting that Nofolk s endnote spoke of the book having had a long and strange route to publication and wonder whether the very mixedality of the resulting work has anything to do with that It IS genuinely mixed there are some very good things amid the less good as I said To be honest though I wouldn t say the language or the evocation of seventeenth century life were any stronger at their best than what is found in Maria McCann s As Meat Loves Salt for example and I found that a far superior novel to this in terms of character and plot The Civil War background is also better exploited in McCann It seemed rather perfunctory here This is a delightful book that I liked very much but not without reservation The premise of a A House Built out of Stone universal Feast the feast of life that dates back to a time before the Romans was a fascinating one but it got lost in the welter of detail about the many mundane feasts of a great house in the seventeenth century The everyday story of John s slow rise from scullery boy to head cook and hisnreuited love for the spoiled and wilful lady of the house was slow to Alma Mater unfold butietly fascinating For a while I became completely enveloped in the gentle pace of these lives lived by the seasons and the days of feast and fast But the pacing is odd It starts out very slow with John s early life as he learns to read learns of meadow herbs and seasonings and how to cook from his mother and from a near sacred book learning about The Feast There s an almost aching "Attention To Detail But So Beautifully Described "to detail but so beautifully described the lack of a solid story hardly seems to matter This slow pace continues as John leaves his home to learn how to cook in the kitchens of the great house where his mother learned her art then everything suddenly speeds p as we race through the Civil War and John leaves to fight for the king then hits breakneck speed John leaves the house for who knows where His years away are omitted completely And then he returns for something of a predictable end Maybe the pace is meant to reflect the times The daily round for the people in those days must have the people in those days must have as predictable as n changing as the seasons and holy calendar that confined and consumed their lives The sudden advent of war and such a terrible war bringing with it No Gentleman for Georgina (The Notorious Flynns, unimaginable destructionndreamed of change must have come like a bolt of cruel lightning burning everything ever known and replacing it with harsh religion and cold misery If this was Lawrence Norfolk s intention I have to say I don t truly think it works I personally loved the slow n folding of the pre war chapters with all their fine worked details the sudden change of pace and omitting of important chapters in his protagonist s life was just confusing For all its fine crafted beauty there is something empty at the heart of this book There s a wealth of detail about the things that go on but very little depth of feeling because the characters never really came alive and there are some marvellous characters the childhood sweetheart subsumed into the church the manic puritan priest the foppish wastrel suitor and Heron Boy Who was heron boy Where did he come from what was his story I would have loved to know All of the characters could have been magnificent but none of them came fully fleshed they all seemed devices to hang the story and the details on John Saturnall was the most nebulous of all he seemed somehow colourless and ghostly at times I felt I could see right through him So much happens to this man but there s never any sense of anticipation of wondering or conjecturing what might happen next because he never felt like a real man to me and so nothing he said or did could move me And after all my moaning you re probably wondering why I "VE GIVEN THIS BOOK 4 STARS THREE STARS WOULD "given this book 4 stars Three stars would not do it justice there s a beauty in the language and a depth of intricate detail that s astonishing and lovely I did enjoy it very much but couldn t love it. T her fiance is an arrogant buffoon When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger ntil 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 fastReminiscent of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell John Saturnall's Feast is a brilliant work and a delight for all the sense.