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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All delicious and disturbing and just a little bit rotten, like a really good Stilton
When an Oxford professor discovers he has a serious medical condition, the university's secret dining society have the chance to enjoy the gastronomic experience of a lifetime...

This book had me absolutely hooked from its opening chapter, which begins in appropriately gastro-horror style with the death of a senior Japanese diplomat after eating a dish of...
Published 14 months ago by Kitty

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tasteless
From its title ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ it is obvious what the plot includes – cannibalism – so squeamish readers can steer clear. As a Vine reviewer this was not an option for me – and I spent some time disliking what I was reading. To me the book is obnoxious bordering on offensive and reprehensive bordering on repugnant. Sorry to all...
Published 7 months ago by D. Elliott


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All delicious and disturbing and just a little bit rotten, like a really good Stilton, 11 Oct 2013
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When an Oxford professor discovers he has a serious medical condition, the university's secret dining society have the chance to enjoy the gastronomic experience of a lifetime...

This book had me absolutely hooked from its opening chapter, which begins in appropriately gastro-horror style with the death of a senior Japanese diplomat after eating a dish of ineptly self-prepared fugu. From this attention-grabbing opening, we're taken into a beautifully shadowy world of rare wines, unusual foods, bizarre dining practices and moderately insane academics - all utterly focused on their stomachs.

The writing is elaborate and evocative, with foodie descriptions that are almost disturbingly luscious. The characters are definitely more stereotypes than well-rounded personalities, but that's absolutely right for the style of the book; an elaborate Porterhouse-ish satire on the insular world of Oxford colleges. I don't want to spoil a narrative that's heavily plot-driven so it's hard to say much more about this book other than that I loved it...but if you, like me, enjoy novels that are right on the borderline between black comedy and horror, this is a definite recommendation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guess who we are having for dinner?, 15 Mar 2014
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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I was drawn to this book by the truly splendid title, but don't think this is a tale of desperate survivors of an air crash or some such incident; no this is set amid the enchanting spires of Oxford University. We meet the members of the dangerously exclusive, `Shadow Faculty of Gastronomic Science. This is a dining society of Oxford Dons who make it their life's aim to turn gastronomy into the science they believe it truly is and to taste all that the world of culinary delights has to offer - and drink a fair bit too.

Then one of the members - Professor Arthur Plantagenet gets the unwelcome news of his sudden and unexpected demise due to a dicky heart. Undeterred by this quite catastrophic news, he sees it as a way to further push the envelope of culinary frontiers - and comes up with a plan. This he entrusts into a meticulous and detailed will of what is to be done with his `remains' once he has shuffled off his `mortal coil'; oh and he leave a rather generous legacy too - or should that be leg-acy?

Soon the doctors are proven right and his plan swings into action, as well as the normal directions one of the more galling parts is that he wants to know what `we' taste like and he is only too ready to donate his body, or at least a bit of it, to the field of gastronomic inquiry. That's right he wants them to eat him - and make some tasting notes too. What follows is a tale of subterfuge, modest rebellion, lots of eating, some marvellous recipes and some rather ungallant behaviour by certain individuals.

I really enjoyed this book, Ian Flitcroft has a way with words that is almost Wodehouse in that the humour is both dry and full of wit and insight. The characters really come alive - except for Professor Plantagenet of course - and the story is totally addictive. An absolute joy of a read from start to finish. You should also read the notes at the back as they add to and explain even more of the motivation for this original and rewarding piece of literature.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your average dining club, 29 Dec 2013
By 
Book fiend "Enthusiast" (Petersfield, Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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A beautifully crafted novel - he is clearly a gifted writer and deserves the plaudits he has won. This is a deliciously (in every sense of the word) funny and slightly whacky book, beautifully observed and with an easy flowing style that carries you through the story. You can't wait to find out the denouement - which doesn't disappoint - but the plot line is far from obvious and the characters are given a life beyond the page they are written on. A highly recommended and entertaining read - there is nothing tasteless or unpleasant about it and you would have to be squeamish in the extreme not to enjoy the antics of the members of the dining club at the heart of the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reluctant Cannibals, 14 Aug 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This debut novel is darkly and deliciously disturbing. Set in Oxford University during 1969 and 1970, it features the Shadow Faculty of Gastronomic Science; the members of which are all Fellows of St Jerome’s College. Devoted to their dinners, to which they expand enormous effort, the Society suffer a setback when Takeshi Tokoro, guest of one of the founding members, Dr Augustus Bloom, dies while eating a dish he helped prepare himself. Enter Dr Ridgeway, the modern Vice-Chancellor, who is determined to have the ‘ridiculous boys’ club’ disbanded. However, the accidental death of the cultural attaché of Japan is nothing compared to the havoc which is about to be wreaked by one of its own members.

Arthur Plantagenet, who has devoted his life to gastronomy, discovers that his love of good food is going to shorten his life. However, far from deciding to cut back on his eating to extend his life, Arthur determines that the group should eat him after his death.... It is fair to say that the other members of the Society are less than thrilled with this suggestion, but events soon get quite out of hand. Pursued by both Dr Ridgeway, the police, ethical worries and a deeply unpleasant and snobbish student who resents not being invited to join, Arthur’s last wish descends into farce. This book is full of wonderfully eccentric characters, a delightful academic setting, ghosts who play Bach and some serious perusals of recipes which will either make your mouth water or make you feel slightly squeamish. This is an original and deeply humorous novel. I was saddened, by the end, to say goodbye to the characters who peopled these pages and I know it will be a book I will come back to and revisit. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tasteless, 9 May 2014
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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From its title ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ it is obvious what the plot includes – cannibalism – so squeamish readers can steer clear. As a Vine reviewer this was not an option for me – and I spent some time disliking what I was reading. To me the book is obnoxious bordering on offensive and reprehensive bordering on repugnant. Sorry to all those 5- and 4-star reviewers, but cheers to the author who must have enjoyed his research and writing.

The book tells a story based around a group of Oxford academics who explore and experiment with exotic culinary creations, and they band together as the ‘Shadow Faculty of Gastronomic Science’. Formal recognition of such is at the hearts of the group, but there is a sprinkling of sub-plots in addition to emphasis on cuisine, with author Ian Flitcroft clearly a food and drink enthusiast. He appears to have soaked up much previous literature on the subject with extensive references to an 1825 publication ‘Physiology of Taste’ by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savrin, and he sets the scene in 1969 when Nicholas Kurti, an Oxford professor of physics presented a lecture entitled ‘The Physicist in the Kitchen’. These were inspirational to the author of ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ but for me his progression into print fell on my delicately deaf ears. Flitcroft’s detailed descriptions of food are weird and wonderful but often they evoked feelings of disgust rather than being tempting to my palette. The subject of cannibalism is certainly unpalatable.

I have to admit the plot is unique and intriguing, and narrative is well written with a high degree of black humour and a little of the supernatural, but I found the language affected and it comes across as somewhat pompous and pretentious. Though based on fact ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ is fiction, and I found these issues became blurred which did not help in developing characters as credible or preventing the story being whacky and macabre. For me it is too bizarre and in spite of the obsession with gastronomy it is tasteless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable, ebullient and entertaining read - just as long as you avoid mealtimes, 6 Aug 2014
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Ian Flitcroft's unusual first novel is certainly darkly comic, full of vigour, and often, absolutely disgusting as it cheerfully, gleefully, crashes across all sorts of inbuilt gustatory taboos. Food taboos are pretty well always local and cultural, except of course that cannibalism is fairly widely regarded as taboo.

So..........we already know in advance that somewhere lurks fine dining, not so much WITH friends, as ON friends.

That isn't the half of it. I queasily fought the gag response at the description of the delights (or otherwise) of a dish composed of witchety grubs, and I suspect that as a vegetarian I might have been more that usually upset at the details which start, first take your live squill.........

In fact, it was pretty well only in the descriptions of dessert and fine wines that the gag reflex settled

Although Flitcroft - himself a brave gourmand, sampling rare and forbidden foods from all round the world (want a recipe for scorpion or snake? - the author is your man) - probably lingers a little too long on various fine and rare vintage wine descriptions to amuse anyone except a serious oenophile, and has perhaps too firm a fixation for rare flesh to be frequently paired with cooking with fennel (not another bed of, sauce of fennel - aren't there any other vegetables??) this is for the most part a most enjoyable shock of a book. There is no gratuitous violence, no gratuitous sex, but there is a lot, an awful lot, of very dirty dining!

I laughed a lot, and enjoyed the cast of always larger than life eccentrics to be found within its Oxford University setting. Flitcroft himself an Oxford educated Dr of Neurophysiology, who now specialises as a consultant eye surgeon. I know, it hardly bears thinking about, in the context of this book's title.

The story concerns a group of Oxford dons, with a secret bizarre dining club, a peculiar will, and a handful of undergraduates who stumble upon the existence of the club and attempt some investigations in order to learn more.........black comedy student detective work meets Diner's Cabal!

I lost it a star because I do think some of those loving food and wine descriptions could have been pared back, they began to become a bit tedious - though I'm completely sure that the fine diners who know there wine will fiercely, bibulously disagree.

And I recommend it, with a warning that it may not be for those of a sensitive gastric disposition

The publisher's blurb describes it as having a shocking climax. I demur, instead regarding it as rather perfectly poised
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't live up to the hype, 21 July 2014
By 
Jennifer May (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't get into it. The prospect was really interesting, and as a massive foodie I was really looking forward to it, but it just wasn't for me. I think a lot of it was because it's set in 1969 in Oxford University and there aren't many female characters - all the main characters are old male professors, and I just had no one to relate to, so I ended up bored stiff and actually dreading having to read it.

Admittedly, there were some funny moments where I foud myself chuckling, but I found it rather dry. I only got 3/4 of the way through before I just couldn't take it anymore and had to give up. I found that I didn't even care what happened to the characters anymore.

Probably a good read for a huge foodie (definately not a good idea to read it while feeling rather queasy, which I made the mistake of doing once) or someone who doesn't mind the lack of female characters, but unfortunately not one for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to my appetite but there is a strong appeal, 28 Dec 2013
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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The story is about a group of "gastronomic scientists" at Oxford who meet up once a term to eat amazing food that they and their guests have developed. One member finds out he is going to die soon and so aims to have his own human meat on the menu after his death.
Revelling in the intelligent writing is a pleasure with this book. The words and phrases are beautiful and deserve to be savoured.
It is clear from the start that the author is a huge food lover who is indulging his passion in writing this book. Whilst there is a lot of good here the enthusiasm for the food is too strong and overpowers the plot. It's a shame as the story is a great idea.
I would recommend this for real foodie people who should read slowly and digest gradually. Anyone looking for a well developed plot and realistic characters should avoid.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Reluctantly read this book, 9 Sep 2014
By 
book fan (west yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This novel is peopled with eccentric, colourful characters and filled with little nuggets of humour throughout this tale of a motley collection of Oxford University Academics, who have formed an exclusive secret dining society. Each term they think up more and more unusual culinary delights for these feasts and each professor brings along a guest who will also present a meal for them all to try. The novel starts when one such guest, a Japanese diplomat, dies from his own dish concocted from the Puffer fish which is deadly poisonous when cooked incorrectly. One member of this elite dining society Professor Arthur Plantagenet, is diagnosed with heart trouble and is told he has not long to live. Instead of this news getting him down, it does the complete opposite, and he decides that he will make the most of his impending doom by planning his will so that his friends can all become involved in a meal like no other they have eaten before, much to their dismay. It is obvious form the title just what this meal is going to be produced from, so no big surprises there. The professors set about the task of preparing for this much unwanted meal which they feel duty bound to do, because of Plantagenet's will. Did I like this book? yes some of the time, because it does have a good plot and some truly funny characters, Plantagenet being one of the best but for obvious reasons he leaves part way through, but a lot of the time I did find this story slow going and had to force myself to keep picking up the book. It is reasonably good but readers should not expect blood and gore even though it is a grisly subject matter with grave robbing and ghosts thrown into the mix, it is well written, very clever and amusing, but I did not think it is was great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Beautifully Written and Enthralling, 23 May 2014
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Out of all the books that I've read this year (about thirty so far), this is the one that I'm looking forward to re-reading the most. It's wittily written and engaging, with subjects close to my heart - food, manners, tradition, politics, religion. All get lightly flambéed here, and served up with a twist of Macabre. Cannibalism isn't something I'd ever considered for my bucket list and, after reading this book, I don't think I'll be adding it any time soon!
It is clear that the author is very familiar with, and loves, Oxford (this shines through in his writing) but it plays second fiddle to his love for food. If you aren't a lover of good food, and if you don't particularly enjoy the macabre then you might want to give this a miss. For everyone else, tuck in. Bon appétit.
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The Reluctant Cannibals
The Reluctant Cannibals by Ian Flitcroft
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