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John Saturnall's Feast


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From the bestselling author of Lempriere's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk is back with an astounding new historical novel

About the Author

Lawrence Norfolk is the bestselling author of Lempriere's Dictionary, The Pope's Rhinoceros and In the Shape of a Boar, three literary historical novels which have been translated into 24 languages. He was born in London in 1963 but moved with his parents to Iraq shortly after. They were evacuated following the Six Day War in 1967 and he grew up in the West Country of England. He is the winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the Budapest Festival Prize for Literature and his work has been shortlisted for the IMPAC Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Award and the Wingate/Jewish Quarterly Prize for Literature. In 1992 he was listed as one of Granta magazine's 20 'Best of Young British Writers'. In the same year he reported on the war in Bosnia for News magazine of Austria. His journalism and reviews have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout Europe and America. He lives in London with his wife and two sons.


A brilliant, erudite tale of cookery and witchcraft in 1681 -- A.S. Byatt * Guardian, Books of the Year *
Lawrence Norfolk is a genius * Louis de Bernieres *
Glorious ... The whole book is an extended fantasia on the idea of taste itself. Like all the best historical novels, John Saturnall's Feast is not just a novel set in some point in history ... but a novel about how histories infect stories -- Stuart Kelly * The Times *
Lawrence Norfolk is just about ahead of everyone in his generation of English novelists * Observer *
As vivid as it is mouth-watering ... This glorious, multilayered banquet of a book is clever and finely wrought, and the prose, steeped in the arcane language of 17th-century cuisine, brings it vividly and sensually to life * Metro *
Scrumptious foodie tale of a low-born master cook and his survival -- Boyd Tonkin * Independent Books of the Year *
In Norfolk's skilful hands, there is no danger of verbal indigestion. John Saturnall's Feast is the most accessible of his works. A grown-up fairy tale ... Fantastical architecture and weird botany are a vivid background to the bloody conflict and swooning romance. Norfolk is an expert on obscure sources as well as sauces. His blend of horrid history and oddly credible fantasy deserves to be consumed by the masses * Sunday Telegraph *
Witchcraft, cookery and war in seventeenth-century England ... from the master of the historical behemoth * Guardian *
A lyrical tale of historical havoc set in the English Civil War, with cookery as salvation. Class, war and folk tales are the themes of this ambitious, elegant novel * Marie Claire *
A fabulous novel. I was totally wrapped up in it, reading it on planes and trains and automobiles when it really should be read in front of a roaring fire with a huge mug of claret. It does what he has always done, which is wrap you totally into a world; utterly convincingly into that world ... extremely, extremely moving -- Alex Preston * BBC Radio 4, Saturday Review *
A triumph of technique but it's also a very affecting work, a magical one, a banquet for the thinking reader, a sensuous delight. Lay hands on a copy and read it as soon as you may and you'll find something truly worth savouring - every image, every detail, inspired, its full and fascinating depths inviting exploration and providing pleasure of the most satisfying kind * Cornflower Blog *
On the cusp of an autumn glut, the publication of a novel about a sublime cook in a great house 380 years ago is perfectly timed ... The kitchen vocabulary is rich, and Norfolk relishes it ... the feast itself is a triumph * The Lady *
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 *
A welcome return from one of the deepest historical novelists around ... it sings ... delectable -- Hermione Eyre * Evening Standard *

Since cave-dwelling days, humans have been hunting and gathering and preparing trophies for eating. By the 17th century, when this novel takes place, cooking had advanced beyond the roasting of meat over an open fire into the art of gastronomy. From an early age, John Saturnall has been tutored by his mother, an herbalist believed to be a witch, to assist her and understand the subtleties of the kitchen. Upon her death after she and her son are forced from their village, John is dispatched to the estate of Sir William Fremantle, where his mother once worked. As he rises in the ranks from scullery boy to assistant master cook, he catches the eye of Sir William's feisty daughter, Lucretia. When she is promised in marriage to the loathsome Piers Callock, whose family's close connection will ensure the estate's inheritance, she launches a hunger strike in protest. John is presented with the challenge of creating food that will persuade her to eat. VERDICT Sumptuous recipes and food descriptions intensify the seductive love story of John and Lucretia, turning a tasty treat into a literary feast. [See Prepub Alert, 4/19/12.]-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, ON (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Food, history, and romance add layers of flavor to Norfolk's (In the Shape of a Boar) lush new novel, his first in a decade, about an accused witch's son who becomes a noble family's "Top Chef" during the English Civil War. Alternating protagonist-hero John Saturnall's charmingly antique recipes with the narrative of his occasionally brutal life, Norfolk depicts 17th-century England as a land savaged by political turmoil and religious persecutors. While just a boy, John runs away with his mother from a village mob, taking refuge in a place known as Buccla's Wood, where she teaches him about the earth's bounty, but then dies before revealing all her secrets. John soon finds himself tied to a saddle and transported across the Vale to Buckland Manor. There, he works his way up from kitchen boy to "Master Cook," his culinary gifts blossoming along with his feelings for Lucretia Fremantle, daughter of the lord of the manor. John and Lucretia revive the feast that brings together highborn and low, rich and poor. Despite their efforts, warring factions manage to cause mayhem at the manor, leaving John with the unhappy task of preparing a wedding banquet for Lucretia and her cruel cousin. Artfully told with folkloric undertones, Norfolk's tale features bruised dreamers seeking sensory respite from their abusers in settings ranging from the kitchen to the battlefield. 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. Agent: Carole Blake, Blake Friedmann. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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