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John Saturnall's Feast

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,566 Ratings  ·  304 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Lempriere's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk is back with an astounding novel of seventeeth-century life, love and war; the story of an orphan who becomes the greatest cook of his age. The village of Buckland, 1625. A boy and his mother run for their lives. Behind them a mob chants of witchcraft. Taking refuge among the trees of Buccla's Wood, th ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 13th 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2012)
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
26th out of 151 books — 267 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maya Panika
Oct 18, 2012 Maya Panika rated it really liked it
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 fascinatin ...more
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 Fe
Sep 12, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘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, ...more
Kate Mayfield
Aug 02, 2012 Kate Mayfield rated it it was amazing
Lawrence Norfolk's elegantly written JOHN SATURNALL'S FEAST is utterly
captivating. An interest in history or the 17th century is not necessary to
become 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 who
desperately struggles to stay alive in his young life. He is the boy who
emerges from a tragedy in ancient woods only to be thrown into the kitchen
of Buckland Manor where he must earn the right to use his
Mar 09, 2015 Knjigomanijak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Sa
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 jet ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Aimee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2014 Martha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-shelf
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 becaus
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 ...more
Lydia Presley
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
Hrvatsko citateljsko drustvo
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 ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 10, 2012 Jenny (Reading Envy) marked it as abandoned
Shelves: netgalley
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.
Feb 24, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Влюбих се в тази книга. Чета вече втора след нея, но удоволствието и усещанията, които ми остави, не ме напускат. За съжаление такива книги вече (почти) не се пишат. Има много, в които авторите ни държат непрекъснато в напрежение, със завладяващи истории и неочаквани обрати и финал, със силни, запомняши се образи, но са далеч от онези приказки за пораснали деца, след които пристрастяването към книгите става нелечимо.
Лорънс Норфък е успял в стил отпреди столетия и без нито едно излишно изречение
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 d
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 i ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a
Jul 14, 2012 Brooke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2016 Paul rated it it was ok
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
Apr 25, 2015 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, что
Короли воздвигают свои статуи, священники возводят соборы. Повар же не оставляет никаких
Oct 08, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-shelf
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.
Nov 21, 2013 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wine-and-food, europa
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.
Carey Combe
Sep 28, 2012 Carey Combe rated it it was ok
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.
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,
David Ketelsen
Aug 24, 2012 David Ketelsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an advanced readers copy of this book through Goodreads.

This is a historical novel that takes place from around 20 years before the English Civil War through to the year 1680. There's a few jumps in time frame with the focus being the childhood and early adulthood of the main characters, John Saturnall and Lucretia Fremantle.

Lawrence Norfolk does a very good job in this book of placing the reader back in the 17th century to understand the lives of people in a small estate, particularl
Judith Starkston
John Saturnall’s Feast is an odd but intriguing book. Richly sensuous language describes elaborate 17th century foods and every imaginable smell. Arcane vocabulary, possibly not used in print since Jacobean times, proliferates in these descriptions. The intricacies of food preparation in a great English castle of the period are on full and detailed display while we follow John’s life story. He spends childhood in an obscure village and later arrives in Sir William’s kitchen where his nose and hi ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
“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 pr
Jan 20, 2013 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, english
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna Janelle

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 "
Elvina Barclay
Jul 16, 2012 Elvina Barclay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 begi
Jun 08, 2012 Kiki rated it really liked it
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 woul
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Lawrence Norfolk (born 1963) is a British novelist known for historical works with complex plots and intricate detail. His novels are also known for their unusually large vocabulary.

He was born in London but lived in Iraq until 1967 and then in the West Country of England. He read English at King's College London and graduated in 1986. He worked briefly as a teacher and later as a freelance writer
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