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As Meat Loves Salt Paperback – 31 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (31 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007429266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007429264
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Maria McCann enters the fray of 1640s England and Civil War with considerable gusto in this ambitious first novel. A coldly gruesome murder committed by her youthful narrator opens his account, and the bloody siege of his lover's Diggers colony ends it. Narrator Jacob Cullen, educated but now a servant, flees his royalist household, taking his bride of just an hour and his brother. In a second act of terrible brutality, he beats and rapes his wife. Becoming a pikeman in Cromwell's New Model Army, he befriends Christopher Ferris, an idealist disaffected by the Army and in search of a less tainted freedom. And so the two desert and head for London and the pleasures of Cheapside--and each other. Jacob becomes "a fornicator of unnatural appetite, in thrall to an Atheist... I was in love". But Ferris is intent on establishing a commune, a prospect Jacob reviles, yet to keep his lover he has no choice but to join the motley band.

McCann's writing is rich in detail and colour--the muck and mud of battlefields, London's crowded stench, and the colonists' back-breaking work on the land; she manoeuvres her large cast of characters adeptly, and her dialogue is nicely pithy. The flaw that blights the plot is a yawning gap of credibility: Jacob's acts of violence--the murder, the rape and much more--which occur almost out of the blue simply don't fit his persona. His motives are too thin; nor is he presented as an unbridled brute masquerading as sanity itself. So how are we to "read" him? Even Ferris's accusation--"A man's own evil is his devil and yours, Jacob, is mastery"--suggests too little and comes too late. Jacob's pivotal place in the narrative is discredited by the lack of psychic underpinning and this mars an otherwise robust debut. --Ruth Petrie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘A fat, juicy masterpiece. Jacob, who destroys what he loves with the rapacity of his desire, is as compelling as he is appalling…Most impressively, the writing here is flawless. These pages flow like claret.’ Economist

‘Early in the English Civil War, a body is dredged from the pond of a Royalist estate. “As Meat Loves Salt” is the testament of Jacob Cullen – homicide and fugitive. Obsessed with the graceful Christopher Ferris, he follows him to become a London printer, a Digger and, finally, an emigrant to the New World…An electrifying erotic thriller, rich in secrets and surprises.’ Independent

‘A novel teeming with life…a triumphant piece of historical evocation. McCann’s unflinching descriptions of battle are matched by the power of her depiction of London in all its fetid splendour. And in the character of Jacob himself, a strong but selfish man weakened by a violent temper and haunted by guilty dreams, McCann shows the imaginative empathy that is the hallmark of a true novelist.’ Vogue

‘A true delight, vivid, well written and, best of all, accessible…Maria McCann’s characters leap off the page and speak in contemporary voices that entirely convince.’ Daily Express

‘An intriguing and disturbing first novel which lingers in the mind…Tense with anguish, intimacy and shame, it imaginatively re-creates the mentality of a society racked by war and intoxicated by radical new ideas of freedom and change.’ TLS

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Dean Andrews on 21 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
A book has affected me fairly deeply if I'm still thinking about it 24 hours later. Well, it's almost a week since I've finished As Meat Loves Salt, and yet I am still reeling from Maria McCann's knock-out novel. I've sat at work not getting work done, and laid in bed unable to sleep, thinking about the motivations and selfish actions of ostensibly unlikable characters. That she was able to actually have me feel any sympathy at all for a sexually violent, brutish and dominating character such as Jacob Cullen is testament to a brillant writer. It would be a crime if this woman never put pen to paper again.
Everything about this story hit my buttons. The raw passion between Jacob and Ferris - at times beautiful, at times whincingly disturbing - left me breathless. It ranks right up there with the intensity of literature's famous love-hate relationship, that between Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff and Cathy.
There were times when I could almost smell the putridness of the battlefield, the fragrance of splendidly cooked game in Ferris' Cheapside home and the filth of the sweaty, unwashed colonists as they vainly toiled away for their New Jerusalem. Also a delight was McCann's attention to the everyday detail of the characters lives. It is a book that certainly reads as if the author has done her homework and is a truly rich evocation of a superstitious, socially repressive and violent England.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Hurry up and read it!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By on 21 Aug. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Non-fiction military history is what I looked for; instead I came upon this most compelling tale of brutal love and betrayal set during the English Civil War. Manservant Jacob Cullens, the "lumpkin" who settles arguments with his fists--and Christopher Ferris, the idealist who weaves webs with words--make the perfect dysfunctional pair. Just as it is inevitable that their friendship will become more than platonic, so it is that a great harm will come about to both as they seek to control one another totally. That relationship mirrors the tumult of a society where royalists and parliamentarians are engaged in an internecine struggle for supremacy.
That the author did her homework on the period in history is obvious. It is helpful to keep one of those electronic dictionaries handy to look up unfamiliar (to Americans) words like "lief", "syllabub", "hustling".
Count me in as a fan of the unlikeable Jacob Cullens and an admirer of the first-time author, Maria McCann. She has written a masterpiece.
Excuse me as I go for second helpings of As Meat Loves Salt.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 May 2004
Format: Paperback
When I first finished this novel, I felt a terrible need to get it out of my sight. I couldn't return it to the library since it was about two in the morning, so I hid it under a pile of clothes in my closet. Such was the impact this story had on me - I could barely stand to keep it in my house.
Sound terrible? Well, it was, but in the best kind of way. I suffered through everything with Jacob Cullen, Maria McCann's fascinating narrator. Jacob is somewhat schizophrenic and completely obsessed with violence, but like most people he has his own (flawed) reasons for what he does. He doesn't hate himself, so in seeing everything from his perspective it becomes difficult to hate him for his actions. One also becomes aware of every possibility he has to improve himself and his life. Christopher Ferris, Jacob's lover, is the kind of person and man or woman could (and does) fall for, passionately. This makes it all the more horrifying to be trapped in Jacob's mind as he watches everything good in his life come to ruin. The ending, as gut-wrenching as it is, seems inevitable given that it's brought on by Jacob and Ferris both being true to who they are. There's no escape.
So much could have gone wrong in the craft of this book. Not only is there the difficulty of narrating from Jacob's point of view (the mystery that is Jacob is dribbled out in the smallest hints, dreams or passing thoughts, never given out too quickly), but also the story stretches from a manor house to London to the common fields, and it's all covered in compelling detail. The language, too, never falters in successfully blending 17th-century and modern. The underlying motif of hellfire/desire could come across as overused, but in the circumstances it's the right metaphor.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By on 23 Feb. 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a strangely compelling novel which, although over 500 pages long, never runs out of steam. Set during the English Civil War, in the first part there is no shortage of incident as we follow the narrator, the handsome and strapping Jacob, on a dangerous path that leads him to the New Model Army. After he's seen murderous military action at Winchester and Basing House, he deserts with a companion to London and what follows is a finely observed tale of dangerous love set against the quotidian life of London in the 17th century. In the final section of this excellent novel the lovers are tested to the limit at the 'Diggers' or 'True Leveller's' colony they and a motley crew of idealists, misfits and rogues are trying to establish. The book ends with Jacob on the quayside in Southampton, bound for New England. The author writes boldly and, for this reader at least, successfully, in a style that combines 'period' dialogue and expressions with more modern turns of phrase. In less skilful hands this can be disastrous, but in Maria McCann's it works very well. This could well be the debut of a novelist with a very promising future.
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