Friday, September 28, 2012

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

The story is set in seventeenth-century England. It is a kind of poor boy up against unjust townspeople makes good plot. But it has a variety of elements and twists. The author combines history, social and religious elements, myth and food to take the title character from his small village after the death of his mother to the castle of a member of the peerage. There he becomes part of the household, successfully becoming a master chef and entangled with the willful young daughter of the manor. There is the usual cast of likeable and unlikeable, simple and scheming and downright nasty characters. The story spans several decades, from peaceful times through the English Civil War and afterward. It is a moderately enjoyable book but I did not think it lived up to the hype of the back cover blurb. I never felt drawn into the story or particularly connected to or sympathetic with the characters, except for one or two minor ones. Some years ago I read another book about this time period by a different author, complete with strong female and unexpected lover, somewhat parallel to this book, which engaged me much more.

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