Lawrence Norfolk - John Saturnall’s Feast
- Brian Donaldson
- 18 September 2012
A densely-detailed historical drama where character, time and place are more important than plot
The writing of John Saturnall’s Feast has reportedly taken Lawrence Norfolk all of 12 years to complete. And given the lush depth and intricate detail on almost every single line of these 400 pages, it’s understandable. This is a book for lovers of ‘proper literature’ where description of character, place and time are far more crucial than anything approaching plot. As such, this is quite probably a masterpiece, but may leave those who yearn for a thrusting storyline a little parched.
It’s a tale of love across the 17th century English divide where the partition runs from the hell-like kitchen our eponymous hero works in, up through the stately manor he feeds and which houses Lady Lucretia Fremantle. But it’s also a savage attack on church and state where war and injustice (John’s mother is accused of witchcraft) are enforced to brutal effect, and a chance to celebrate the everyday heroes who don’t have a chapter in the history books.