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