John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

A book review

My love: ♥♥○○○

John Saturnall is the heir to a legacy of cooks. The first women and men who enjoyed the endless feast provided by the Garden of Eden. The story begins with John as a boy, all the hardships and his talented nose. But then the story changes after his mother dies in the winter’s cold. He is brought to Lord William’s manor. Joins the kitchen and war explodes. All in-between friendship and romance plots.

Long ago I saw a Korean drama, “Feast of the Gods”. It was a family drama revolving around centuries of cooking and a very talented girl with a talented nose. The main character rose to the top through hardship and tests. In the end, she decided to go back to her simple life she loved, free to cook whatever she wanted. Where am I going with this? Well, I was expecting the same kind of trill from John Saturnall’s Feast. Alas, it did not come close. Also, the witch piece of the story reminded me much of the story I am working on. So I was also expecting some inspiration. Again, none.

The story began quite well. I began having questions and cheered for John against the bullies. The story took up phase. Jumping between past and present, which I enjoyed. I was expecting this to be much like “The Language of Flowers.” Then the mother died and the story began to die with her. Endless pages about John surviving. Followed by endless pages of traveling. Followed by endless pages of well… cooking. I don’t know why I expected so much about this book, and the one thing I should have expected, I didn’t. The cooking. So much cooking. So many things I didn’t understood.

The romance began fun, as kids, hating each other. But the attraction was as sudden and random as the war itself. Through the book, there are no signs of an incoming war, until a sudden moment. The romance, though well built up, was just emotionless. At least for me. I didn’t felt it. I didn’t loved the characters. I only cheered for Lucretia’s fighting spirit.

And the last bit of the book. Suddenly made me feel like I was in a vortex wondering where the hell I ended up at, dizzy, confused, and trying to make sense of it. Turned out 12 years went by in the blink of an eye. Yes, a blink, literally. One paragraph ends up with heartbreak and the next is 12 years later.
I would have enjoyed this book if it had better breaks between time periods. And less plots all over the place coming out of nowhere. Much often I found myself going back to see how many years went by. Suddenly the boy I met had grey hair. His journey to become a Master Chef was an easy breeze. The romance was sneaky and sad, so that part was good, just lifeless. As if no one in the household would have noticed their romance during the hunger and war. Please.

The one thing I enjoyed were the recipes in-between. Supposedly dividing chapters that were just scattered. But were written with a prose which in my head read as if it was indeed John reciting them. The whole book was a sort of metaphor for Lucretia and John’s romance and centuries of disputes between the original people of the Vale and the Invaders. But it seemed to focus more on the metaphor and the kitchen than in the characters. This disappointed me. I rated it 2 stars and that’s a gift. I didn’t liked it in the end. Though after long years, with a sudden disappearance form the archenemy (surprise surprise), they reunite again in a feast and a happily ever after.

she writes