Read John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk Online


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, havingA 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....

Title : John Saturnall's Feast
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780802120519
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 409 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

John Saturnall's Feast Reviews

  • Maya Panika
    2019-06-15 19:55

    This is a delightful book that I liked very much, but not without reservation. The premise of a universal Feast, the feast of life that dates back to a time before the Romans was a fascinating one, but it got lost in the welter of detail about the many more mundane feasts of a great house in the seventeenth century. The everyday story, of John’s slow rise from scullery boy to head cook and his unrequited love for the spoiled and wilful lady of the house was slow to unfold, but quietly fascinating. For a while, I became completely enveloped in the gentle pace of these lives, lived by the seasons and the days of feast and fast. But the pacing is odd. It starts out very slow, with John’s early life, as he learns to read, learns of meadow herbs and seasonings and how to cook - from his mother and from a near-sacred book, learning about ‘The Feast’. There’s an almost aching attention to detail, but so beautifully described that the lack of a solid story hardly seems to matter. This slow pace continues as John leaves his home to learn how to cook in the kitchens of the great house where his mother learned her art, then everything suddenly speeds up as we race through the Civil War and John leaves to fight for the king, then hits breakneck speed; John leaves the house for – who knows where? His years away are omitted completely. And then he returns for something of a predictable end. Maybe the pace is meant to reflect the times? The daily round for the people in those days must have been as predictable, as un-changing as the seasons and holy calendar that confined and consumed their lives. The sudden advent of war – and such a cruel war, bringing with it unimaginable destruction, undreamed of change – must have come like a bolt of cruel lightning, burning everything ever-known and replacing it with harsh religion and cold misery. If this was Lawrence Norfolk’s intention, I have to say, I don’t truly think it works. I personally loved the slow un-folding of the pre-war chapters with all their fine-worked details, the sudden change of pace and omitting of important chapters in his protagonist’s life was just confusing. For all its fine-crafted beauty, there is something empty at the heart of this book. There’s a wealth of detail about the things that go on, but very little depth of feeling because the characters never really came alive - and there are some marvellous characters: the childhood sweetheart subsumed into the church, the manic puritan priest, the foppish wastrel suitor, and Heron Boy! Who was heron boy? Where did he come from, what was his story? I would have loved to know. All of the characters could have been magnificent, but none of them came fully fleshed, they all seemed devices to hang the story and the details on. John Saturnall was the most nebulous of all, he seemed somehow colourless and ghostly; at times I felt I could see right through him. So much happens to this man, but there’s never any sense of anticipation, of wondering or conjecturing what might happen next, because he never felt like a real man to me and so nothing he said or did could move me. And after all my moaning, you’re probably wondering why I’ve given this book 4 stars. Three stars would simply not do it justice; there’s a beauty in the language and a depth of intricate detail that’s astonishing and lovely. I did enjoy it very much, but couldn’t love it.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-06-09 22:57

    “Kings raise their Statues and Churchmen build Cathedrals. A Cook leaves no Monument save Crumbs. His rarest Creations are scraped by Scullions. His greatest Dishes are destined for the Dung-heap.”John Saturnall's Feast is a witch’s brew of a novel…With its plenitude of culinary adventures and the mystery of the fatherhood it lies somewhere between Wilhelm Hauff’s fairytale Dwarf Long-Nose and The Quincunx by Charles Palliser…Also it is a story of the forbidden love… The forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge was the only dish that Eve served Adam.“‘But their enemies came,’ his mother continued. ‘They worshipped a different god. A jealous god. His priests called him Jehovah. They condemned Saturnus as a false idol who had led his people into sin. Their amity was lust, the priests said. Their ease was sloth. The Feast was greed.’”So now it’s time to reclaim amity, ease, joy and Feast…

  • Laurie
    2019-06-14 23:58

    ‘John Saturnall’s Feast’ is set near the start of the English Civil War. John is the child of a woman who is a sort of outcast; an herbalist and midwife, she lives on the outskirts of the village and doesn’t go to church. Of course this means she is thought of as a witch. When a plague runs through the village, she is blamed and they are run out of town. They take up living in a deserted house in the woods, living on late season fruit and chestnuts. She is dying, of both starvation and disease, but before she dies, she teaches John to read from a book about a strange feast held in Buccla’s Wood. It encompasses every form of food; fish, fowl, vegetables, sweets, mammals are all included, and the feast is for everyone, not just the rich as is the way of the land at the time. At her wish, after her death, he is taken to Buckland Manor where he is put to work in the vast kitchens. John’s life changes totally. Used to being alone or with only a couple of people, he is now constantly pressed by people on all sides. He works every minute of the long day and falls directly into a sleep that never seems to be long enough. Still, given the time and place, it’s a good situation. Food is abundant here, he’s living inside, and after awhile he gets to learn cooking. He’s in a better place than a lot of people.This is primarily a love story; a love that crosses classes and is forbidden- preserving estates and titles takes precedence over love. It’s also an adventure story; the kitchen staff marched with the lord of the manor when he went to war supporting King Charles, and they were expected to fight with the soldiers. I liked the characters. They are not likable all the time; they do stupid, human, things sometimes. But, in the end, it’s a story about food. We might think that cooking back in those days was fairly primitive, but it wasn’t. It was actually very sophisticated. One of the culinary trends back then was to create dishes that looked like something else – parts of animals and birds sewn together to create a mythical beast, meat in pastry to look like a bird, sugar creations in the shape of just about anything. Cooks vied to create the most elaborate and surprising dishes- a sort of Iron Chef, Stuarts edition. Most of the year, the diet was rich and varied; the manor supplied fish from its own ponds, poultry, eggs, dairy products, pork, honey, wheat, fruit and vegetables (they did eat their ‘sallets’) and much was stored for winter. A stable trade system meant the upper classes enjoyed sugar and spices. The sheer amount of person power it took to feed a manor was incredible- most workers were specialists, turning the spits in the kitchen, washing the endless stream of dirty dishes, plucking fowl, managing the fish ponds, the dove cote, the hen houses, the spice room, making the salads, cutting up the meat… and all those people had to be fed, too. You can see how a book can be created around a kitchen of the era! The food, and John’s relationship to it and how he uses it to speak to the lady of the manor, is lovingly detailed, much more so, really, than the people.Food was not always plentiful, however. It was easy to starve back then. The stark difference between the incredible plenty of the start of the story versus what they have to deal with when the Roundhead soldiers steal the food from the manor and destroy what they cannot take shows how dramatically life can change. John falls back on how he and his mother lived in the woods, and on what he learned from the book of the Feast. He is the hero of the tale, for all the people living on the manor. What the Feast was is never made clear. It’s like a myth of a Golden Age, when all were equals and food was plentiful. Was it a pagan community that had existed in the woods before Christians arrived? Was it a myth to comfort the reader, a dream to hold onto? Did it have a direct bearing on John’s ancestors? Was the book a semi-magical teaching aid that allowed John to excel in the manor kitchens later? In the end, it doesn’t matter. It allowed John to hold on and to save the manor. ‘John Saturnall’s Feast’ is a story of cycles and renewals, both earthly as the wheel of the year turns and spiritually, as human hope and happiness comes up again and again.

  • Liviu
    2019-06-12 22:51

    Since his very notable debut some 20 years ago with Lempriere's Dictionary, Mr. Norfolk has written only one another major novel, Pope's Rhinoceros which was what I expected and more - I read it only twice across the years, but I am rereading it too now starting when I heard a few days ago about his upcoming new novel, this one, John Saturnall's Feast; as for Lempriere, maybe this time (it's at least my 10th try at it) I will manage to get into it...Anyway, I saw the upcoming John Saturnall's Feast a few days ago on Net Galley and I obtained a review copy which I expected to take me a while to read (see above why, noting that Pope's Rhinoceros is also a pretty dense and almost 700 pages long though quite a rewarding novel that makes one understand life in Europe ~1520's better than many historical treatises, such is its superb atmosphere and the powerful style of the author).To my surprise I almost breezed through John Saturnall's Feast as it was very hard to put down, but also it stood at about "only" 400 pages and was written in a much more accessible style - a pretty straight forward and more or less chronological narrative interspersed by fanciful "feast recipes" according to particular events of importance in the book. Actually, the style is almost sensuous in a way, though the grime and harsh realities of England from around 1630's till 1662 (with an epilogue set a decade or so later) are very much in evidence also. The book is clearly John's story and the blurb is generally accurate, but despite that the main hero is only a "cook" rather than a knight or such, there is adventure, heroism, seduction, battles, fanatics... The novel is also very visual - I was picturing quite a lot of it as a Peter Greenaway movie, more precisely the mixture of the period of Draughtsman's Contract and the feasting of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover - both movies I've watched a number of times...Though now the cook is the lover too and he does not end on the dinner table...Anyway a highly, highly recommended novel and a top 25 of mine for this year, while i expect I will reread it quite a few times to enjoy its atmosphere...I also expect this one to appear on this year Booker prize longlist at the least.

  • Kate Mayfield
    2019-05-21 23:03

    Lawrence Norfolk's elegantly written JOHN SATURNALL'S FEAST is utterlycaptivating. An interest in history or the 17th century is not necessary tobecome completely swept away by the story - a testament to Norfolk's magic.One needs only a desire to read a beautifully constructed story of a boy whodesperately struggles to stay alive in his young life. He is the boy whoemerges from a tragedy in ancient woods only to be thrown into the kitchenof Buckland Manor where he must earn the right to use his talent. We cheerhim on as he labours to become the greatest chef, to create the mostcomplicated and magnificent dish, to oversee the most important feast. JohnSaturnall is the boy who becomes a man in the face of another struggle forthe love a forbidden woman and their survival amidst his enemies and the backdrop of theCivil War.This is an artful, carefully wrought novel. The extraordinarydescriptiveness on each page is a joy. Each character is authentic. Norfolkhas written a book that lingers and enthrals.

  • Issicratea
    2019-06-05 16:51

    The merits of this book first. It really is quite evocative in its descriptions of a cornucopian, heavily populated seventeenth-century kitchen. A lot of research has gone into this, but you don't get the 'dead hand of research effect' so common in historical novels: the details of food preparation, ingredients, recipes, arcane kitchen roles and duties are brought together in a convincing and imaginatively compelling brew (it's impossible to avoid food metaphors talking about this book). I felt that this was probably the heart of the author's vision for the book, and he brings it off superbly.The problem for me was that this frankly isn't enough to make a novel, or not a novel of this conventional kind, anyway. A plot is needed. Norfolk does supply us with one, of a fairly conventional ilk (protagonist emerges from hideous childhood bearing the odd scar; love triumphs across class barriers; the undeserving get their dues; the deserving live happily ever after) but it's all fairly formulaic and not especially engaging. I never at any point reading this novel felt a strong desire to find out what happened next, which has to be a bad sign.The characterization is especially weak. There are a lot of characters, but quite large numbers of them, especially in the Fremantle household in which the bulk of the novel is set, never really establish themselves as anything more than names. Of the more worked-up characters, none struck me as especially memorable. Lucretia is particularly underdeveloped, in a way that is problematic for the whole romantic element. She seems to me entirely a cipher, doing exactly what is needed for the plot at any given moment, but without any coherent character that I could discern. Some elements of her story are simply laughable, such as the supposed climactic moment near the end where she deliberately masquerades as a whorish seductress in order to put Saturnall off her and hence spare his feelings (at least, I think that's supposed to be what happens ... I must say I had rather given up on the novel by that point).The villains are also a weak point: Clough, Marpot, Piers Callock. I didn't think anyone did completely unregenerate 'baddies', without a hint of redemptive complexity any more - or at least not three of them in a single novel. Frankly, they are clichés. Marpot is even given the arch-villainous characteristic of 'cold blue eyes' at one point, just in case we were in any doubt of his general iniquity.I found it interesting that Nofolk's endnote spoke of the book having had a 'long and strange' route to publication, and wonder whether the very mixed quality of the resulting work has anything to do with that. It IS genuinely mixed - there are some very good things amid the less good, as I said. To be honest, though, I wouldn't say the language or the evocation of seventeenth century life were any stronger at their best than what is found in Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt, for example, and I found that a far superior novel to this in terms of character and plot. The Civil War background is also better exploited in McCann. It seemed rather perfunctory here.

  • Aimee
    2019-06-16 16:56

    This book had all of the elements that I love in historical fiction, the most important being that as I read the story I felt like I was there in the 17th century kitchen beside John watching him and all of the other workers prepare the food. I love it when I become so engrossed in a story that I feel I am right there with the characters and Norfolk does a wonderful job of bringing this story to life.Each chapter begins with a recipe written by John that he prepared for the feasts. They were fun to read and the descriptions of the food prepared throughout the book were some of the best I have ever read, and I have read a lot of books about food. It was interesting to read about how the kitchens were run in a large manor and all of the different jobs there were to do. The other part of the book I enjoyed was the love story between John and Lady Lucretia. Both characters were strong and likable and they had lots of chemistry together which made the book all the more enjoyable. This is a great book for any historical fiction fan. It is beautifully written, complex, and has a rich setting full of interesting characters. I am very glad that I picked this one to read, I think it will be on my list of favorite books of the year.

  • Knjigomanijak
    2019-06-01 15:59

    Ne znam zašto sam uopće ovu knjigu uzela u knjižnici, iako nisam pročitala niti njen kratak sadržaj. Iskreno, privukla me njena naslovnica, te pisac o kome sam nedavno čitala.I što reći na sve to? Nisam nimalo požalila, jer je ova knjiga zaslužila svaki minut mog uloženog vremena.Radnja romana događa se u Engleskoj u 17. stoljeću, točnije priča počinje 1625. godine i vodi nas kroz razdoblje vladavine Karla l, opisuje engleski građanski rat, te obnovu monarhije.Glavni lik romana je dječak John Saturnall , koji živi s majkom koja je travarica, vidarica i koja poznaje trave i različite biljke, a uz to umije i čitati, te je zbog svega toga smatraju vješticom. Budući da žive u malom, engleskom selu i u vrlo pobožnoj sredini , njihov način života ne odgovara visokomoralnim ljudima na položaju, te je zbog svega toga John osuđen na maltretiranje lokalne djece, a kasnije i odraslih.Kada u selu izbije epidemija bolesti, John i njegova majka budu protjerani, a njihova koliba spaljena.Te hladne zime u Bucklandovoj šumi, majka mu umire od gladi i hladnoće. Prije smrti ostavlja mu knjigu koju je ponijela sa sobom, a u kojoj je opisana drevna Saturnova Gozba, drugim riječima rajska gozba, koju su štovali i pripremali sljedbenici Adama i Eve. Johnu daje zadatak da nastavi veličati Gozbu.Nakon toga, dječak odlazi u dvorac Buckland gdje od običnog perača posuđa, postaje izvrstan kuhar zbog iznimnog talenta koji on naziva svojim "demonom na dnu nepca". To je prepoznavanje mirisa hrane i istančan ukus za jela. I ne samo to:njegov talent da od ničega stvori sve,jednom riječju , umjetnik kulinarstva i samog kuhanja.Naravno, postoji tu još jedna ljubavna priča koja me od samog početka zaintrigirala i tjerala na daljnje čitanje da vidim kako će se završiti.Ne kaže se badava da ljubav ide kroz želudac, ovdje sam puno puta na to pomislila, bez obzira na sam tijek događaja u knjizi.Ono što me fasciniralo u samom romanu je umijeće pisca da poveže povijesne događaje sa kulinarskim umijećem i hranom. Isto tako svaka cjelina počinje sa jako zanimljivim receptom, koji su specifični svaki na svoj način, jer govore o načinu spravljanja hrane u davnom 17. stoljeću.Moram priznati da sam se nekim receptima baš nasmijala.( Npr." riba se kuha koliko je dovoljno da izmoliš Zdravomariju", ili "zatim uzmi hladno vrhnje, topli med i ljestve..." ) Sve je to popraćeno bogatim crtežima.Ova knjiga je jedno pravo malo bogatstvo mirisa i okusa , na koje dok ga čitate nikako nećete ostati ravnodušni.Završit ću sa jednim zanimljivim citatom iz samog kraja knjige: " Jabuka je bila sve što je Eva poslužila Adamu. Ali i to je bila Gozba. "

  • Susanne
    2019-06-03 17:42

    Ein grandioses Leseerlebnis! Kurzweilig, detailverliebt, spannend. Wie erwartet, handelt es sich um einen historischen Roman. Die Hauptfigur John wächst in einem kleinen, abgelegenen und furchtbar ärmlichen Dorf im Norden Wales in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts allein mit seiner Mutter auf. Susan ist die Kräuterkundige und Hebamme des Dorfes. Sie wird solange akzeptiert, bis ein religiöser Eiferer das Dorf nach einer Epidemie gegen sie aufwiegelt und sie in die Wälder vertreibt. Erst jetzt wird das Hauptthema deutlich: Auf der Flucht erfährt John von seinem spirituellen Erbe. "Das Festmahl" ist eine heidnisch-gälische Vorstellung, deren Geheimnis John auf Anweisung seiner Mutter nachgeht. Die Suche nach seiner Identität verwickelt ihn in den englischen Bürgerkrieg, eine nicht standesgemäße Liebe und in die Intrigen und Künste, die eine herrschaftliche Küche der Zeit zu bieten hatte. "Das Festmahl des John Saturnall" ist damit eher ein Entwicklungsroman, in dem die historischen Ereignisse als Hintergrund für die innere und äußere Entwicklung des Helden dienen. Zu meinem Lesevergnügen hat beigetragen, dass John ein überaus sympathischer Protagonist ist, neugierig, engagiert, loyal, empathisch, ein bisschen hitzköpfig, dem ich auf seinem abenteuerlichen Weg gerne gefolgt bin. Norfolk gelingt es, sowohl das ärmliche Tal von Buckland als auch dessen Herrenhaus und seine Bewohner so lebendig zu beschreiben, dass man es gar nicht verlassen möchte. Details über die Kochkunst, die Organisation einer Großküche des 17. Jhs. haben mich fasziniert, könnten andere natürlich langweilen, vor allem, weil der Großteil der Handlung in der Küche von Buckland Manor angesiedelt ist und nicht auf den Schlachtfeldern des Bürgerkrieges. Für mich ein eindeutiges Plus! Ich bin vom Eintauchen in die Alltagsgeschichte, in diesen Mikrokosmos begeistert. Um jetzt nicht völlig unglaubwürdig zu wirken, will ich wenigstens einen problematischeren Punkt erwähnen. Manche Handlungsstränge lässt Norfolk ins Leere laufen, es gibt Fragen, die aufgeworfen werden und bis zum Ende offen bleiben. Aber auch das hat für mich das Leseerlebnis nicht geschmälert. Absolute Leseempfehlung für Freunde von historischen Entwicklungsromanen mit Schwerpunkt Alltags-/Küchengeschichte.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-06-03 16:02

    Basically, i just don't have enough patience for books like this. The idea of a magical feast that saves the princess is interesting but I'm 200 pages in and nothing has happened yet... Lots of imaginary food descriptions.

  • Lydia Presley
    2019-05-27 16:59

    It's interesting, because I've come across a controversial subject two days in a row in reading. John Saturnall's Feast, while being a fabulous story (and one that had me drooling), carries the honor of being a historical novel and as such, will get a little more leeway from me.So what is that controversial subject? It's rape, folks. It happens in books, I get it. My issue is when it happens and we're supposed to just forget about it and move on, much like the women characters who experience it in the books. Now, I know in the time period this book is set in, rape happens. It happened then, and I know for sure those women then did not have the resources and information we have today about it's lasting effect. They were just affected, and then they moved on. So this paragraph is all I'll say on the subject. I wish Lawrence Norfolk had given Lucretia a bit more respect and had her maybe, I dunno, wait a little while longer to move forward on any sort of physical relationship, but that's my modern sensibilities kicking in.As for the rest of the book? It was fantastic. Each chapter began with 17th century (I believe?) writing about the preparation of a feast. People, I didn't know half of the ingredients as they were being described, but my mouth was watering. And then there came whatever gelatin concoction John made - it sounded MAGNIFICENT. And it was probably something gross like old ladies marshmallow salad at church pot lucks. But anyway, the description of the food was amazing and I was so caught up in the happenings and the vivid images that I could see everything coming to life.I think this would be a fabulous book club read. There's so much discuss-able material and quite a few historical events are touched on that really centered the story and brought it to life.

  • Helle
    2019-06-06 22:54

    Who would have thought a book about food could be so exciting?Exciting might not be the right word. The novel builds up slowly, and it took me a while to get caught up in the story, but when I finally did, it was a sensory, aesthetic feast that awaited me, intoxicating the senses but also giving me an insight into the time before and surrounding the Restoration in England.Occasionally, it read a bit like a young adult novel (overcoming small obstacles and conquering enemies, making new friends, falling in love for the first time), although never in a superficial, naïve kind of way but rather as befits a historical novel of literary rather than popular leanings.I’ve read that one’s vocabulary is challenged/expanded when reading Norfolk, but that isn’t so much the case in this book given that the main character, whom we follow throughout the book, is only 11 when we first meet him, and he becomes an adult only towards the end. This was a good choice, however. I really got to like John Saturnall. (And it’s not quite true about the vocabulary in this book: There is an immense amount of words to do with medieval food that I’d never heard of before. And when, in a friend’s Danish translation of the book, bukkenade becomes bukkenade, camelade becomes camelade, I’m really none the wiser).I might have liked some more introspection on the part of the characters, so the four-star rating is for the aesthetic feel of the story, for the world in the kitchen, for John Saturnall and for the Heron Boy.

  • Elvina Barclay
    2019-06-07 21:39

    Reading that this book was about food and history I was intrigued have a copy to read. I had not read anything by this author before. I was quickly captivated by the language and descriptions of plants, animals and the life lived by the main characters. Young John Sandall lives with his mother in the village of Buckland is early 17th century England. He is an outcast as others in the village believe his mother to be a witch, but they still come to her for cures and advise. As young children begin to die, John and his mother are run out of the village and they go far into the woods to live in an abandoned garden. There John's mother teaches him to read her book of recipes and tells him the story of a great feast. John is orphaned and goes to live in Buckland Manor house and begins his journey from lowly kitchen boy to become John Saturnall,one of the greatest cooks known. His unique palate and natural skills take him to lead the household kitchens. He eventually must coax Lucretia, the daughter of the Manor's Lord to eat when she refuses to wed to keep her inheritance. Amidst the Civil War between the King's Cavaliers and Cromwell's Roundheads that threatens the lives of all in the household, John and Lucretia's story unfolds with descriptions of the way people lived and worked and ate. A brilliant work that was over 12 years in the making from a great storyteller.

  • Martha
    2019-06-01 16:41

    This is one of the books I got for the cover and in that aspect I don't regret buying it for the full price which is almost the same as a hard cover. For the cover and overall packaging alone I'd give this a five-star rating. Alas, you should never judge a book by its cover. Lol. I'm not saying this is not a good book. It is. I liked that it was ambitious in a way that it talked about religion and that it's a historical fiction but I thought it had a weak ending. I suppose it was my fault because the plot and the blurb (and the cover!!!) was so promising I expected way too much from it. Especially when John's mother said ... "there's more." I waited (!!!) for that more! Lol. John and Lucy's love story dragged too. I get the whole it's a family thing but ... Yeah. Haha! I also thought there were too many characters here and I can understand the part that the story ran for years but some were probably unnecessary? Overall, the book had a good start ... and that was it. The most I can give this is a 3.5.

  • Tuck
    2019-05-20 19:44

    despite some predictable romancey stuff, there is enough surprises, grit, and historical atmosphere that i just loved this book. i coulda swore i already did this review once. i think gr;s is eating my reviews. anyway, can you imagine washing the dishes in a huge castle kitchen in 1620? it werent pretty.

  • Kiki
    2019-05-29 16:33

    This was an electronic advanced reader copy from NetGalley.I have never read anything by this author before, but asked for the ARC based on the book's description on NetGalley and I received it. It wasn't until I was more than half way through the book that I decided to look up Lawrence Norfolk and learn a little bit more about this writer, and was impressed with his credentials, although I can hardly claim to have a strong interest in reading his other works, as they sound way above what I would be capable of reading and understanding! I was happy I was reading this on my Kindle, since I did use the built in dictionary quite a lot. Norfolk uses a lot of vocabulary you do not generally hear in today's world, most of it referring to more ancient times. This book is set in the 1600's in England, beginning right before the English Civil War. But another added feature of this novel is the ancient language used before each section to describe the "receipts" used for John Saturnall's Feast, essentially, a cookbook.John Sandall is a lonely little boy who lives with his mother, Shunned by the villages children as a "witch's son," his mother is an herbalist/healer/midwife who is regarded as a w itch by the Puritanical order that has grown up in England after the Reformation and is trying to take over the worship in small villages. The Puritans in the village are fanatical and frightening, and the preacher, Marpot, is a hateful and controlling man who incites the village to violence against John and his mother, even after they have finally been accepted there. John and his mother are forced to flee, while their home is destroyed. They escape the wilderness nearby, surviving on their wits, and his mother continues to educate John to her ways with a special cookbook of sorts that she has managed to save.A very basic knowledge of the history of England is helpful when reading this book, and I often found myself looking up names and events to learn more about the period, people and places, but Norfolk purposely leaves much of the information provided in the story very vague, almost as if it really doesn't matter, and truthfully, the main characters are the most important ones to try and understand. John ends up at nearby Buckland Manor, as an orphan, but because of his uncanny culinary skills, he is allowed to stay on as a Kitchen Boy, instead of being sent to the poorhouse. There he meets Lady Lucretia, the motherless child of the manor, who often fasts in a passive rebellion against her father. He also meets a whole host of other interesting and important folks that contribute to life at the manor.This book has quite a complicated plot, and the reader really needs to pay attention to names of places, to the many characters and to the thoughts of the John and Lucy. The writing is extraordinary and the story is quite moving. I loved the way the author manages to keep things happening without becoming stagnant, or stuck in the many plot details, the book has a very natural flow and feeling, and without that, it would be very easy to become mired down by this novel. The last book I read with a plot this complicated was David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, which I really enjoyed, and the style of writing is similar: many clues and hints are given to the reader from the very start of the novel, and it is usually with hindsight that the reader suddenly recognizes them. A delightful book, challenging yet fun reading, especially for those who enjoy history and esoteric stories with amazing people, both real and fictional.

  • Marina
    2019-05-26 18:34

    Норфолка я до этой книги не читала и даже не слышала про такого писателя, так что на все эти инсинуации о несоответствии типичности произведения автору не ведусь и говорю свое мнение - книга хорошà! Хороша от конфликта язычества и религии до описания работы кухни. Вот с последнего и начнем про книгу.Кухня, повар, Джон Сатурналл. Тонкий гурман, как назвали бы его сейчас, специалист своего дела, говорит, чтоКороли воздвигают свои статуи, священники возводят соборы. Повар же не оставляет никаких памятников, помимо крошек. Редчайшие его творения отправляются под судомойные скребки и щетки. Величайшим его блюдам начертано попасть в выгребную яму.Пройдет еще не одно столетие, пока короли и священики не будут приезжать к поварам, правящим свой Пир без указов этих самых королей и священников. Но пока Сатурналл правит Пир во времена Английской революции, заслуживая свое место на кухне английского ленд-лорда и пытаясь заставить есть его строптивую дочь. В послесловии Норфолк благодарит собственника ресторана за информацию о работе кухни и указывает в источниках целых семь поваренных и кулинарных книг, датируемых Средневековьем. Дайте мне хотя бы одну в руках подержать, ну пожалуйста! Кухня Норфолка жива, ее очаг пылает, ее столы ломятся, а кладовые заполнены. Абсолютно реалистичное описание цехов, работы поваров и поварят, важности каждого работника - от поставщика до кладовщика оживляют и прекрасно иллюстрирует кухню Сатурналла. Веришь, не задумываясь, потому что просто живешь в этом раю.Язычество - отдельная сторона книги. Язычество, так сказать, бытовое - травы смешать так, что бы боль облегчить; роженице помочь - это тоже ересь. Мелкая, но все же достойная того, что бы начать войну и "захватить" целую долину, мы ведь все знаем миролюбвство християн. Но тем не менее, это самое язычество мы до сих творим на собственных кухнях, иногда впадая в алхимию, а иногда и даже в безбожье. Тварь я дрожащая или не буду есть шоколад после шести? Мы добавляем тимьян к картофелю, а корицу в вино и не считаем себя наследниками язычников, это ведь так, мелкое кулинарство. Пусть так. Главное - это нести свой Пир и щедро делить его с окружающими:Ева преподнесла Адаму только яблоко, а это уже был Пир. Исторический антураж. Его было ровно столько, что бы заинтересовать, но не перенасытить. В самую меру - для создания антуража, для полного раскрытия эпохи и обьяснения мотивов персонажей. В книге были недочеты и оставленные слишком открытыми места, ну и что? В целом, эта книга - любовь. И магия. Или просто кухня.

  • Oscar
    2019-06-06 15:38

    Lawrence Norfolk llevaba doce años sin publicar una novela, sin duda una larga espera para uno de los escritores con los que más he disfrutado. Ahí está ‘El diccionario de Lemprière’, una de mis novelas favoritas, que recomiendo encarecidamente.‘El festín de John Saturnall’ es la cuarta y esperadísima novela de este autor británico. Es la historia de la lucha personal de un joven por abrirse camino en un mundo que se lo había puesto todo en contra. Pero también una historia de un amor lleno de dificultades. La historia transcurre en Inglaterra, en el siglo XVII, y el protagonista es John Saturnall, un cocinero que tuvo que huir junto con su madre, acusada de brujería. Entre las pertenencias más preciadas de su madre, se encuentra un libro que narra la historia de un antiguo festín mantenido en secreto durante generaciones. La trama se complicará cuando John llegué a Bucland Manor, la residencia de Sir William Fremantle, y de su hija Lady Lucretia. Resulta interesante que una novela histórica no tenga por protagonista a un soldado o tenga por escenario un ambiente de intrigas palaciegas. El mundo culinario está muy presente y realmente parece que estés entre fogones, utensilios y viandas. Como es habitual, Norfolk se ha documentado exhaustivamente y sabe transmitir con naturalidad todo tipo de gastronomía, de tal manera que a veces es inevitable salivar en según qué plato. El conflicto bélico, político y religioso iniciado por Oliver Cromwell, en esta época tan convulsa, donde primaban la venganza y las persecuciones, también tienen un papel importante en la trama.Tengo sentimientos encontrados con esta nueva y esperada novela de Lawrence Norfolk. Hay momentos muy brillantes, pero el inicio se hace un tanto monótono, y el argumento sufre de continuos altibajos. Se nota que la cocina es importante en la trama, porque, como los buenos platos, esta se prepara a fuego lento. De igual manera, la novela no tiene la brillantez de los primeros dos libros, donde el ingenio, la imaginación, la erudición y la estructura eran inigualables. Sin ser una obra excepcional, sí creo que es una novela que merece la pena ser leída.

  • Lara (Bookishsolace)
    2019-06-10 16:53

    Now this book is something! I’ve never read such a book in my life before, but I honestly didn’t get it at first. The first 100 pages are very confusing in my opinion but then suddenly everything becomes clear and I began to enjoy this book so much! The book may not be for everyone because it’s such a descriptive novel that some may find it boring. I however loved the long passages dedicated to every single aspect of cooking and it somehow felt so real that I got really hungry and also was able to smell the dishes.John Saturnall is an Englishman in the 17th century who starts from being nothing to become a chef who even cooks for kings. He grows up in a small and highly superstitious village where he is ridiculed because the villagers believe his mum to be a witch. One night the flee their home and his mother tries to teach him the secrets of an ancient feast which not only involves the mythology and recipes but also teaching him the advanced skills to keep the feast alive. Suddenly his mother dies and he goes to Buckland Manor, the house of Sir William Fremantle and his beautiful daughter Lucretia. There he moves up the ranks of the kitchen and slowly discovers why his mother send him here. This part of the novel is rich in imagery and detail and shows how food is a physically built work of art. But then the English Reformation begins and war breaks out. John then follows the Lord of the Manor into battle and witnesses the massacres of the war. Poorer than ever he returns to BUckland Manor where he and a few other residents try to survive the years until the Restoration.This book has romance, war, mouthwatering dishes, adventures, mystery and gorgeous drawings of recipes at the beginning of each chapter. I can highly recommend it!

  • Hrvatsko citateljsko drustvo
    2019-05-26 23:40

    Pripada li Gozba svome kuharu ili svima nama, pitao se John Saturnall, najpoznatiji kuhar Engleske u osvit Građanskog rata. Stvaran ili izmišljen, manje je bitno jer vođen vještom pozadinskom pripovjedačkom rukom Lawrencea Norfolka pretače mirise, okuse i boje s engleskog stola 17. stoljeća u maštovit, kreativan i obilan, ali nikako zamoran i težak, ne samo zalogaj već i cijeli obrok za zahtjevnog čitatelja željnog kvalitetnog teksta. Povijest, naime, često zaboravlja na male priče, male ljude i male povijesti, a upravo su ti „mali“ ljudi i događaji ono što „veliku priču“ čini tako monumentalnom i veličanstvenom. Norfolkov pothvat time je vrijedniji jer je, kroz priču jednog „malog“ čovjeka, sudionika čiji je pogled na Građanski rat bio tek pozadinski, čitatelja suvereno proveo kroz Englesku prije, za trajanja i neposredno nakon svršetka rata. Gozba unatoč jelima koja tako zorno prikazuje nije kuharica, opisuje povijesna zbivanja, ali nije povijesni roman, a vješto iscrtana ljubavna priča ne čini je sladunjavim ljubavnim romanom. Pa što je onda, pitate se? Gozba Johna Saturnalla upravo je to - gozba pisane riječi. Možete je promatrati kao kesten; očarat će vas svojim toplim bojama, zavesti mirisom, natjerati da se probijete kroz njezin oklop i kao nagradu vam pružiti nježan i sladak plod. A čak i ako vam se neki od aspekata tog iskustva ne svidi, ostali će pružiti nenadmašan čitateljski doživljaj. (Petra Miočić)

  • Rebecca
    2019-06-09 21:40

    Non-trashy historical fiction, yay! And even better, historical fiction about food which obviously I'll love... I especially liked the receipts/extects from Saturnall's book at the beginning of chapters, one thing I'd never really considered before was not having thermometers, or even ovens with temperature settings, so descriptions of heating something until it 'shivers' or even 'so you can touch it but only for a second' (obviously I'm paraphrasing, I don't have my copy with me atm...). Also interesting/useful for further reading were the acknowledgements in the back, apparently Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking was a big inspiration, plus Norfolk lists several 17th century recipe books.The only thing I wasn't totally in love with was the sort of mythology/folk tale weaving through the story, it never seemed that convincing to me and then suddenly the entire story hinges around it. But that doesn't ruin the rest of the story.

  • Brooke
    2019-06-06 16:58

    I was so looking forward to reading this after getting a galley at Book Expo America. I hate to say it, but this was 400+ pages of cliches. I found John Saturnall and his mother's story interesting enough (particularly the way it was told--in series, mixed with episodes of his journey to his new home), but that was the highlight for me. Then this turned into another book where a servant falls in love with his mistress, boy saves girl from attempted rape, girl has his baby although she's marrying someone of her status that her father has chosen for her, girl marries said jerk because her father wants to keep his manor in the family and she can't inherit...the list goes on. I did enjoy the 17th century-style "recipes," although it might have been more interesting to read the author's source material. I hate giving bad reviews, but this just wasn't my cup of tea. I had already read this in many other versions from many other authors.

  • Benjamin
    2019-05-29 21:46

    It's not a fantastic book, but I enjoyed it a bit. It follows much of the life of John Saturnall from being cast out of his village with his mother for witchcraft to rising to Master Cook of a noble household. All set to the backdrop of the English Civil War between Charles I and Parliament. The plot and characterization are often simplistic and the author never really follows through on some ideas. On the other hand I thought Norfolk was quite restrained with certain aspects of the story such as the political background. The Civil War, religious fanaticism, even the romance are more sub-plots that have an impact on the main character's life. The major focus is on the character being a cook. Here the author is restrained as well so the reader doesn't get overwhelmed with recipes and the like so you don't need to be a food aficionado to enjoy it. To take inspiration from the title, the best way to read this book is to sit back and enjoy the feast.

  • Paul
    2019-05-22 22:51

    A rare DNF for me. After a hundred pages the book just wasnt engaging enough. Events where happening but just weren't being presented in an interesting enough way. A quarter of the way in I just couldn't motivate myself to push on. Two stars rather than one a it wasnt horrendous writing but I've read similar concept historical novels and the others draw you in a lot quicker and this failed to weave that web

  • Elizabeth
    2019-06-15 17:52

    My best read of the year so far. I loved the layers of story telling, the descriptions of the food and the whole ambience. I've read quite a few good books this year, but this earns the extra accolade of being one for the favourite shelf and will perhaps stand a re-read to examine some of the layers I didn't quite get this time around.

  • Carey Combe
    2019-05-20 23:41

    I would have given this 1* but I liked the historical bits. However, in general not my kind of book - single mum dies, poor orphan boy with amazing qualities (in this case cooking) who eventually falls in love with lady of the manor .... You can imagine the rest.

  • Sonia Jackett
    2019-06-09 17:58

    3.5 really enjoyable story with amazing descriptions of food. I think the book was poorly edited however as sometimes the sentences don’t quite flow and allusions to things are a bit too loose meaning you have to re-read quite a few times in order to try and guess what is going on.Also, the 10 years or so of the commonwealth brushed over quite a lot and the end felt a bit rushed, considering the build up a depth of the previous chapters. STILL an enjoyable read.

  • Kirsty
    2019-05-28 16:54

    The novel begins in 1625 where, in the remote English village of Buckland, John Sandall and his mother Susan are fleeing from a vicious mob, who taunt the pair with cries of witchcraft: ‘John, John, the Witch’s Son!/Duck him and prick him and make him run’. Their escape is fraught with danger and rather frightening for eleven-year-old John, particularly with elements such as ‘the long grass whipping their legs as they scrambled for the safety of the slopes’.His mother, Susan, is a Goodwoman, a midwife who concocts remedies for pregnant women and delivers the village’s ‘wailing infant’ population. She knows that her son is targeted because of her profession, and treats this matter-of-factly at first, asking John ‘They beat you again, didn’t they?’, and dismissing their actions as ‘just their sport’. Susan is not a likeable character, and whilst we feel sympathy for John having to live and work alongside her, the reader feels a great relief on behalf of the protagonist when she passes away.The main theme running through John Saturnalia’s Feast is an ancient book, ‘The Book of John Saturnall’, which John’s mother treasures. This book, she explains to her son, has ‘a garden’ on every page, and ‘every fruit [grows] there’. With the aid of this book, John is taught how to read and takes many of the ancient recipes which it includes to heart, memorising their ingredients and methods. Susan tells him on her deathbed that ‘every true cook carries a feast inside him’, and John promises her that he will keep the family’s age old tradition of ‘the Feast’ alive. In his newly-orphaned state, he is sent to stay at Buckland Manor with Lord William Fremantle, where he is employed as a kitchen hand.Norfolk has used the third person narrative perspective throughout. At first, he captures the sense of place wonderfully, as well as the torment which John undergoes from his peers. Norfolk creates such sympathy for his protagonist in the first section of the novel, and his portrayal of the bullying actions carried out by his peers has been incredibly well executed. The simplistic phrases which the author uses are often the most harrowing – ‘today the gibbet was bare’ creating rather a sinister image, for example. The importance of the world around John is where the best descriptions are found, ranging from ‘clover petals yielded honey bees’ and ‘sweet blackberries swelled behind palisades of finger-pricking thorns’, to ‘a great house seemed to break through the verdure and stretch two wings like a vast stone bird struggling free of the earth. Tiers of windows rose to a bristling plateau… [and] little towers jostled with cupolas and spires or dropped to invisible courtyards’. A wealth of imagery is built up with such phrases and John’s world becomes real on the page, if only for a little while.The novel is split into different sections, each of which features an intriguing and old fashioned title pertaining to the recipe featured at the beginning of every new part: ‘A Foam of Forcemeats’, ‘A Broth of Lampreys’ and ‘A Dish of Candied Baubles’, for example. The first section is excellent – well paced, with wonderful descriptions and a good evocation of the historical setting – but this changes as soon as the second section of the book is reached. Too many characters fill the novel’s pages, and it is often a little difficult to keep track of who is who, what is happening and why. Some of the character names used also do not seem to fit with the period – Gemma and Maggie, for example; a small niggle, but an important one when writing an historical piece of fiction.The book itself has been wonderfully presented, with beautiful woodcuts and the inclusion of several old recipes dating from the time in which the book is set. John Saturnalia’s Feast has been well researched and a good list of sources has been mentioned in the novel’s acknowledgements. Whilst the novel is rather rich in its scope and multi-layered storyline, it is in the first 65 pages of the book where the strengths lie. The reader is drawn into John’s world and feels so much for the protagonist, and this is then cruelly wrenched away when the second part of the novel begins. There is no real sense of consistency throughout, and whilst the pace of the book is wonderful at first, this has not been realised in the novel’s remainder. All sense of the novel’s flow disappears, the characterisation becomes rather slack at points, and John becomes rather a stolid character, whom less and less compassion is felt for as the novel reaches its end.

  • Monica
    2019-05-27 23:52

    “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“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 GuardianThere's a mythic quality to Lawrence Norfolk's fourth historical novel. . . . it skillfully entangles folklore and foodlore. . . . Throughout the novel, food is shown to be both a source of sustenance and a thing of ritual; recipes are legacies, the threads connecting generations. . . . Norfolk's writing is at its strongest when he's describing the symbolic significance of certain dishes: spiced wine, delicate curls of spun sugar, slivers of almonds, and the flaking flesh of river fish.”—The Observer (UK)“Norfolk knows how to make words roll around the mouth. . . . 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 TelegraphI could not have said any of this better myself.Norfolk's books so brilliantly realize strange times in other places - there is nothing else quite like them. This one is approachable, gripping (only if you like food, conflict and love stories) and a really beautifully made book on so many levels.

  • Anna Janelle
    2019-05-26 19:59

    Even though it took me nearly a MONTH to finish reading (*shakes fist angerly at graduate school assignments*), it was an bewitching story of love, old traditions, religion, history and food. And yes, pun intended.Young John is orphaned by his mother, who is chased out of her village due to embracing old traditions (see also: accusations of witchcraft) that contradict with the prevailing Christian sentiment of the times. While starving to death so John might eat, she passes on the tradition of "the feast," a feast that belongs to all and is recorded in an ancient text. After her untimely death, John is entrusted to a local Lord's manor, where he is placed as a servant in the kitchen. The knowledge that his mother imparted prior to her death (along with his remarkable sense of smell) enables John to excel as in the kitchen. The daughter of Lord William, Lady Lucretia, a finicky, defiant girl given to fasts, becomes the object of John's affections, despite being betrothed to a spoiled, cowardly drunkard. The story of their forbidden romance and the struggles of the manor to keep afloat despite threats of war, starvation, and religious zealots comprise the majority of this heart-felt historical novel.Feast or famine, I would definitely recommend the book to other food-o-philes, history buffs and romantics alike. An extra-special thank you goes to Grove Press and author Lawrence Norfolk who shipped out this book to me after I did not receive it through the GoodReads First Reads program. I am so extremely grateful that I got to read this Advanced Reader’s Copy <3 It was an enchanting story that will make for a compelling re-read in later days, so, readers, place this on your wishlists and file it under “to own” someday. I just cannot resist the lolcats. I know - serious problem, serious issues. Enjoy :)[image error]