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John Saturnall's Feast

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  1,264 ratings  ·  276 reviews
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, having
Hardcover, 409 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Grove Press
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Community Reviews

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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
‘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
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
Maya Panika
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
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
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
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 изречени
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 10, 2012 Jenny (Reading Envy) marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
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
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
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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.
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
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
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
“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
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John Saturnall is sent to Buckland Manor as a young orphan, in hopes that he will find work and a place where he can fit in, as it is his best chance for a decent life. John has a natural talent for smells and tastes. He can break the flavors down in their complexity, pulling them apart and identifying their individual parts. His talent reminded me of that of Moses in The Bells, except Moses' talent dealt with the sense of hearing and John's is that of taste and smell.

Given John's talent, he qu
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
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
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
Colin Milligan
I read Lawrence Norfolk's wonderful first novel, Lempriere's Dictionary, almost twenty years ago and it remains one of my favourite books. Unfortunately, the weight/bulk of his next novel meant that it was bought but never read. In the intervening years, the advent of e-readers meant that bulk would not present a problem this time round. John Saturnall's Feast is a wonderfully written novel set against the backdrop of the English civil war. Beautifully told and constructed, it was a pleasure to ...more
Jannine Robinson

Just delicious.
I didn't think I'd like this as the few first chapters had me all over the place. I had to go back and reread some passages just to make sure I'd got names, dates and places right. However, I found myself looking forward to each next chapter and relishing the food!
This book feels like a fantasy, sometimes fairytale because of it's link to the wild and wonderful Britain that I wish I'd known. And because of the beautiful descriptions and historical nuances it felt like a past I
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jasmin Kirkbride
It’s not actually very often that I say this anymore, but this is a book that is really worth buying in print. The crinkle-edged pages, the illustrations, all go toward making the reading experience. If you can, get it in hardback. The design team worked a charm on this book. But beyond that, it’s a genuinely fabulous read: well-paced, well-written, well-characterised, and with an enchanting hint of destiny.

There are two protagonists, I would say, in this novel: the first is the orphan-boy John
Jim Leckband
Once this book gets going it is a great experience. The slowness in the chapters where John is growing up with his mother is partly because it is so confusing (at least to this reader). Maybe this is because John is confused of his place in the town, being the son of a "witch" and all in days of Cromwell.

Once John gets to the manor and becomes a cook, the book comes into its own. The process of his learning to cook in the belly of the castle reminds me a lot of Titus Groan. The primitive ingredi
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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
More about Lawrence Norfolk...
Lemprière's Dictionary The Pope's Rhinoceros In the Shape of a Boar Ott's Sneeze (New Writing) Legends of Ancient Rome

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