My thanks to NetGalley and Grove/ Atlantic inc for a digital edition of this book to review.
Published 4 September
Synopsis from Goodreads
My 4**** Review
This intricately woven historical novel charts the progress of John Sandall, who as a young boy is viciously treated by the villagers of Buckland where he lives with his mother, Susan. The villagers assume that Susan is a witch, and in order to escape further harassment, John is taken to the large country estate at Buckland Manor, where is he placed in the kitchens. Over time, John’s natural ability to conjure the most sumptuous food, takes him from humble kitchen boy, to Master Chef and sets the scene for a deliciously different look at seventeenth century England. Reminiscent at times of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume, John Saturnall’s Feast conjures the dark and often dangerous days during the English Civil War, where Sandall’s unique ability to create the most marvellous food is interspersed with stories of treachery and illicit love.
In many respects the book is quite literary, and it takes a while to get used to the somewhat archaic start to each of the chapters, but the excerpts from The Book of John Saturnall adds a certain gravitas and distinction, and forms the basis for the culinary decoctions which feature so strongly in the story. I must admit that it took me a while to really enjoy the novel, the first hundred or so pages so crucial to a book’s enjoyment are rather hard going, but the skill of the author is undeniable and the fine attention to detail in the whole of the book, more than compensates for the rather slow start.
Overall, it’s a clever story and I’m glad I persevered until the book’s conclusion.
Lawrence Norfolk is a British novelist known for historical works with complex plots and intricate detail. John Saturnall's Feast is published in the UK on the 13 September by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.