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John Saturnall's Feast

John Saturnall's Feast [Kindle Edition]

Lawrence Norfolk
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Product Description


"[Norfolk] will magnify this mysterious world for us, and he will, with an extraordinary use of ordinary language, make us see it not as a historical construct but as a place of wonder. . . . Mr. Norfolk's use of child's-eye view and lush, incantatory prose give the narrative a hushed air of magic, as though Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden" were being recounted by the hero of Patrick Suskind's "Perfume.""--"The Wall Street Journal"
"An enthralling tale of an orphan kitchen boy turned master of culinary arts, with sumptuous recipes and intoxicatingly gorgeous illustrations."--"Vanity Fair"
"Norfolk, the author of ornate period novels, here uses his talent for detail to evoke the life of a cook at a seventeenth-century British manor. . . . Norfolk creates a Manichaean struggle between Christian and pagan traditions, but this is ultimately less rewarding than the completeness of the physical world he describes."--"The New Yorker"
"["John Saturnall's Feast"] focuses with more control on a single protagonist's odyssey without sacrificing the glittering erudition and gorgeous prose of his previous works. . . . The Feast is a lovely metaphor for an inclusive, joyous vision of life's physical pleasures, manifestations of the splendors of creation meant to be shared by everyone. . . . Shimmering with wonder, suffused with an intense and infections appreciation for the gifts of bountiful nature, "John Saturnall's Feast" is a banquet for the senses and a treat to anyone who relishes masterful storytelling."--"Washington Post"
"Norfolk delivers a strong tale filled with atmosphere and the odd, telling detail that convinces."--Huffington Post
"While the omission of Zadie Smith from this year's Man Booker longlist seems to have raised the most eyebrows, the overlooking of Lawrence Norfolk's first book in 12 years seems to me the more grievous exclusion. . . . The arcane vocabulary of archaic cooking gives an intangible poetry to the

Book Description

From the bestselling author of Lemprière's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk is back with an astounding new historical novel

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1237 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1408831163
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (13 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008BJ3MS4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #90,798 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Saturnall's Feast 28 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a beautiful, descriptive novel which is hard to define, but glorious to read. It is partly a historical novel, set in and around the time of the English Civil War, partly a tale of mythology and also, perhaps mostly, a love story. The book begins with John Sandall and his mother Susan, who grow up in a small village. Preachers accuse John's mother of witchcraft, the local boys bully him and he feels an outcast. Driven from the village, his mother dead, John is taken to Buckland Manor to the care of Sir William Freemantle. Sir William is an embittered man, who has lost his beloved wife, Lady Anne, in childbirth, giving birth to his daughter Lucretia. Lucretia herself is an unhappy young girl, who starves herself and lives in a world of make believe. Yet Buckland Manor cannot be left to a daughter and Sir William is forced to look outward and invite distant relatives who are as "penniless as shepherds", Sir Hector, Lady Caroline and their son Piers to the Manor, hoping for a marriage alliance.

This is a story of Civil War, of John's rise as a cook under Master Scovell, of John's history and of the relationship between a penniless young man and the Lady of the Manor. John's mother always read to him about the Feast of Saturnall and the Master Cook tells him that "every true cook carries a feast inside him." When Lady Lucretia refuses to eat, then John must tempt her appetite. When the King visits, then he must create a feast fit for Royalty and, when starvation threatens, he must feed the troops. This story follows all the twists and turns that history throws at Lucretia and John, as they cope with religious intolerance, war and the impossibility of being together.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous Feast 5 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had just finished another novel set in the mid-seventeenth century when I started to read this. It was like eating the richest of fruitcakes after a cold poptart. This is such a rich book with so many layers of meaning written in beautiful dense prose. It is impossible to read this book quickly, you have to savour each sentence.

The book is set in a remote valley, I imagine somewhere in the east of England. John lives with his mother,Susan, the village wise woman. Marpot, an extreme puritan, becomes church warden, and with his followers, burns John and his mother out of their house. They take refuge in Buccla's Wood in the ruins of Bellica's tower. There Susan tells John about the feast and teaches him everything in her book - recreating her book in him.

John makes his way to Buckland Manor at the other end of the valley. One of the first people he meets is Lucretia, daughter of Sir William Fremantle. Susan had been midwife at her birth. He gains work in the sculleries of the kitchen as the Civil War draws nearer and eventually overwhelms the valley and the whole country.

Those are the bare bones of the beginning of the story, but they are not really important. What is important is the images you see and the thoughts you think as you read. The plot is merely a vehicle to carry you along. Entangled in the narrative you will find allegory, myth, fable, philosophy, humour . . .

I said at the beginning that it is impossible to read this book quickly. It is also very nearly impossible to put it down once you have started. I have not read any of Lawrence Norfolk's books before. I shall now search them out, but I shall wait a bit before I read the next so that I can fully relish this one.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars more of a curate's egg than a feast 21 Oct 2012
By anonyme
John Saturnall's Feast

I have never written a review on Amazon before, but felt a need to do so for this book, to insert a sceptical note in what is otherwise (in these early days since its publication) an almost uninterrupted litany of praise. I noticed a couple of people who gave it five-star reviews inserted some line about it perhaps not being to everyone's taste. I can offer living evidence of that.

The merits of the book first. It really is quite 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 historical novels: the details 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 culinary 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 superbly.

The problem for me was that this frankly isn't enough to make a novel, or not a novel of this conventional kind, anyway. A plot is needed. Norfolk does supply us with one, of a fairly conventional ilk (protagonist emerges from hideous childhood bearing the odd scar; love triumphs across class barriers; the undeserving 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 sign.

The characterisation is especially weak.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is a really good read.
Published 1 month ago by AllieAsh
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I'm still thinking this through.
Published 3 months ago by Greg Law
5.0 out of 5 stars ... usual choice but someone suggested it and I really enjoyed it.
Not my usual choice but someone suggested it and I really enjoyed it. different
Published 3 months ago by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Classify
Impossible to slot this novel into any genre, I'll try. .It is an historical,romantic,food memoir with touches of the paranormal. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Book addict
3.0 out of 5 stars To read or not to read that is the question!
I don't exactly know what to think about this book. The prose is beautifully written and very descriptive when Norfolk describes the food and the atmosphere surrounding kitchen... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Wendy
3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea but didnt live up to expectations
This book was very widely written up and I looked forward to reading it. However, although the idea was good, it somehow failed to grip me as expected. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Cook Book
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich, aromatic and satisfying
Fascinating book, all the more so for being based on a true story set around the time of the civil war.
Published 16 months ago by Julia Lloyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Feast
A recipe book, a social history of the time, a love story, a garden, witches, the church, civil war. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Chiara
5.0 out of 5 stars Successfully interwoven strands to make a good read.
An successful innovative story, which has several interwoven strands, including a fascinating insight to 17th century food, the impact of the Commonwealth soldiery and religious... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr K Dawson
5.0 out of 5 stars The British have always been able to cook.
Recently a radio programme announced the cookery TV programmes had vastly improved cooking in my country. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. G. E. Webb
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