John Saturnall’s Feast
Let me not beat about the bush. Lawrence Norfolk’s The Pope’s Rhinoceros is one of the best books I have ever read. It has changed the way I write, and the way I teach writing. A new novel from Mr. Norfolk is unimaginably exciting.
And he has done it again. Twelve years in the making, John Saturnall’s Feast is another tour de force, entirely different in style and substance from his other novels, all of which are entirely different from one another. What is great about Norfolk’s writing is that he does not merely superimpose fiction on history, he re-imagines history, giving us a world madly, truly and deeply other than our own.
The story begins in 1625, when John Saturnall is orphaned after a series of violent events in the village of his birth. He finds himself working in the kitchens of Buckland Manor, where his acute sense of smell serves him well, and where he encounters Lady Lucretia Fremantle, anorexic daughter of the house. As England slides towards the Civil War, John uses all his culinary skills to fulfil his mother’s dying command, to save the girl he loves and find the secrets at the heart of his own life.
Think Patrick Suskind’s Perfume grafted on to Gormenghast. Stir in elements from Hans Christian Andersen and Lewis Carroll, and The Name of the Rose. Still, you will hardly come close to the essence of this rich, beautiful, startling and entirely unputdownable new work from one of our most original living novelists.
English Civil War
405 (UK), 416 (US)