From the best-selling author of Lemprière's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk is back with an astounding novel of 17th-century life, love and war; the story of an orphan who becomes the greatest cook of his age.
The village of Buckland, 1625. A boy and his mother run for their lives. Behind them a mob chants of witchcraft. Taking refuge among the trees of Buccla's Wood, the mother opens her book and tells her son of an ancient Feast kept in secret down the generations. But as exquisite dishes rise from the page, the ground beneath them freezes. That winter, the boy's mother dies. Taken to Buckland Manor, John is put to work in the house's vast subterranean kitchens where his talent raises him from the scullery to the great house above.
A complex dish served to King Charles brings him before Lady Lucretia Fremantle, the headstrong daughter of the house. He must tempt her from her fast. But both encounters will imperil him....
Would you try another book from Lawrence Norfolk and/or John Telfer?
The story was interesting, if a little unexciting. John Telfer made the story very listenable.
Have you listened to any of John Telfer’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
This is my first John Telfer narration and he does an excellent job.
Was John Saturnall's Feast worth the listening time?
I enjoyed this, but it doesn't make me want to rave about it. My attention wandered at points and I found I didn't really care a great deal about the characters in it. But I did find it interesting in terms of food as theatre, the Civil War and accompanying religious mania/persecution, and the workings of the kitchen in a big house in this period.
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If you could sum up John Saturnall's Feast in three words, what would they be?
Engaging. Sumptuous. Slow.
What did you like best about this story?
I liked the sections where the story advanced, and where the historical setting was brought to life.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The early days in the house and kitchen were most interesting
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Any additional comments?
It might not be a surprise - but there's an awful lot of food in this book. I confess to skimming a lot of the descriptions, as they just seemed to hold up the plot.
It took me a while to get into this as it starts quite slowly and then speeds to it's resolution at the end. The details of kitchen life were interesting and felt authentic. I also liked the descriptions of life in the country during Civil War and Interregnum. The story reaches a satisfying conclusion and all questions are ultimately answered. I enjoyed the conceit of the pagan Eden and the Feast.
Downsides - the villains are all very black and behave villainously throughout. Some events are flagged rather too heavily eg Coke's revenge.
John Telfer is an excellent reader who differentiates between characters well without resorting too much to "local yokel" mode which is the bane of many an audiobook featuring "peasants".
Essentially an historical novel this is well narrated and exceeded my expectations of a dammed good yarn, the hero of the piece grows form a child to manhood learning loving lusting and enjoying life. The descriptions of cooking and food are mouth-watering and appear to be historically accurate, enjoy.