John Saturnall's Feast

John Saturnall's Feast

3.54 (2,071 ratings by Goodreads)
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A beautiful, rich and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall's Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house, and rises through the ranks to become the greatest Cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths and one boy's rise from outcast to hero. Orphaned when his mother dies of starvation, having been cast out of her village as a witch, John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor, where he quickly rises from kitchen-boy to Cook, and is known for his uniquely keen palate and natural cooking ability. However, he quickly gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the Lord of the Manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiance is an arrogant buffoon. When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger until her father calls off her engagement to her insipid husband-to-be, it falls to John to try to cook her delicious foods that might tempt her to break her fast. Reminiscent of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, John Saturnall's Feast is a brilliant work and a delight for all the senses.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 410 pages
  • 162.81 x 235.71 x 37.85mm | 775.64g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 0802120512
  • 9780802120519
  • 850,389

Review Text

“[Norfolk] will magnify this mysterious world for us, and he will, with an extraordinary use of ordinary language, make us see it not as a historical construct but as a place of wonder. . . . Mr. Norfolk's use of child's-eye view and lush, incantatory prose give the narrative a hushed air of magic, as though Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden were being recounted by the hero of Patrick Süskind's Perfume. "— The Wall Street Journal

“An enthralling tale of an orphan kitchen boy turned master of culinary arts, with sumptuous recipes and intoxicatingly gorgeous illustrations."— Vanity Fair

“Norfolk, the author of ornate period novels, here uses his talent for detail to evoke the life of a cook at a seventeenth-century British manor. . . . Norfolk creates a Manichaean struggle between Christian and pagan traditions, but this is ultimately less rewarding than the completeness of the physical world he describes."— The New Yorker

“[ John Saturnall's Feast ] focuses with more control on a single protagonist's odyssey without sacrificing the glittering erudition and gorgeous prose of his previous works. . . . The Feast is a lovely metaphor for an inclusive, joyous vision of life's physical pleasures, manifestations of the splendors of creation meant to be shared by everyone. . . . Shimmering with wonder, suffused with an intense and infections appreciation for the gifts of bountiful nature, John Saturnall's Feast is a banquet for the senses and a treat to anyone who relishes masterful storytelling."— Washington Post

“Norfolk delivers a strong tale filled with atmosphere and the odd, telling detail that convinces."— Huffington Post

“While the omission of Zadie Smith from this year's Man Booker longlist seems to have raised the most eyebrows, the overlooking of Lawrence Norfolk's first book in 12 years seems to me the more grievous exclusion. . . . The arcane vocabulary of archaic cooking gives an intangible poetry to the novel."— The Times (London)

“Lawrence Norfolk, historical novelist extraordinaire, inhabits the 17th century through its food. From the reign of Charles I through civil war, Cromwell's protectorate and on to the restoration, we are treated to both lavish feasting and battlefield foraging, the politics of the high table and the hearthside use of medicinal herbs. . . . Norfolk's ability to fold history in on itself, and to summon deep time, is as dazzling here as it was in his earlier novels: family genealogy becomes a myth of origins. . . . The material is fascinating. . . . Norfolk's imagination is bigger and more abstract than the individual; he conjures so well the bustling bureaucracy of the 17th-century manor house, its systems of rights and obligations, its geographical and social significance. . . . The food writing is sensuous and exact. . . . You put the book down wanting to make it all."— The Guardian

“A wonderfully arcane novel. . . In the strict new world of Puritan repression, the pleasures of food take on a deliciously illicit flavor."— Independent

“A lavishly detailed account of a fictional 17th-century British chef, set against the background of Great Britain's Civil War. . . . Norfolk lavishes loving attention on the workings of a 17th-century manor-house kitchen. . . . interested in describing the making of food and the politics of the kitchen, delighting in the historical kitchen jargon. . . . The physical book itself is a work of art, full of beautiful illustrations and recipes (or "receipts") in 17th-century style."— Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A brilliant, erudite tale of cookery and witchcraft."— AS Byatt

“Lawrence Norfolk is among the most ambitious and inventive of British writers. . . . Beautifully crafted . . . . The plot has a fairy tale quality. . . . The descriptions of food and cooking are simply wonderful, a delicious mixture of slant rhymes a
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Review quote

Praise for "John Saturnall's Feast" --One of Publishers Weekly's "Books of BEA: Ten Promising Titles" "[A] sweeping tale of love and legend. Beautiful imagery and captivating details bring the story to life, while descriptions of culinary treats make one's mouth water. [A] unique and sensuous blending of history and myth."--"Booklist" (starred review) "Food, history, and romance add layers of flavor to Norfolk's lush new novel . . . Artfully told . . . Known for intellectual prose and complex plots, Norfolk this time out attempts to interweave time and senses, reality and myth, rewarding steadfast readers with savory recipes and a bittersweet upstairs downstairs love story."--"Publishers Weekly" (boxed review) "Sumptuous recipes and food descriptions intensify the seductive love story . . . a literary feast."--"Library Journal" Praise for Lawrence Norfolk: "Lawrence Norfolk is a genius."--Louis de Bernieres "Norfolk - he'll be remembered. He invented a new form in some ways. He has a good ear for the language and an original vision of the nature of things. He is also very playful [and] totally accessible. Not hidden away in some academic corner; he is right in the middle of the British literary tradition."--AS Byatt "One of the finest novels of the Nineties . . . "Lempriere's Dictionary" is a novel quite comparable in scale, intelligence and literary playfulness to the work of Thomas Pynchon or Umberto Eco."--Malcolm Bradbury, "The Modern British Novel 1878-2001" "The biggest book--in every sense--to be published in English since the Second World War . . . I was thrilled and engaged by its brilliance."--Tibor Fischer on "The Pope's Rhinoceros" "Ambitious . . . impressive . . . dazzling. . . . Norfolk can palm an entire era in a single devastating image."--"The San Francisco Chronicle" on "In The Shape of a Boar" "Lawrence Norfolk is just about ahead of everyone in his generation of English
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About Lawrence Norfolk

Lawrence Norfolk is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Lempriere's Dictionary, The Pope's Rhinoceros, and In the Shape of a Boar. He lives in London.
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Rating details

2,071 ratings
3.54 out of 5 stars
5 17% (359)
4 36% (745)
3 33% (687)
2 11% (219)
1 3% (61)
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