John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
Five words from the blurb: witchcraft, book, ancient, dishes, love
The book started well, with a wonderfully atmospheric scene in which a young boy and his mother are persecuted as witches.
The pair escape and seek refuge in a forest, but child ends up working in the kitchens of a large manor house. Unfortunately the book became less gripping as it continued. There was lots of interesting information about cooking in a busy 17th century kitchen, but I failed to bond to any of the characters. Although individual scenes were vivid there was no forward momentum and I frequently found it difficult to pick up the book after a break. Many people love this novel, but I found it patchy and I’m afraid that even the snippets of historic cookery weren’t enough to hold my attention. I started skim reading after about 100 pages and abandoned the book shortly after that.
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
Knut Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920
Five words from the blurb: mind, writer, starvation, fluctuating, insight
Hunger had been on my wishlist for a very long time. It had been recommended to me on numerous occasions, is cited as a modern masterpiece, and Paul Auster describes it as “one of the most disturbing novels in existence”. On seeing it named on yet another “must-read” list I decided to buy a copy. I was worried that it would be too disturbing, but was disappointed to discover that the book had a light hearted tone and lacked any real darkness.
The book centres on a young writer who is so poor he can no longer afford to buy food. He desperately tries to get articles published in the hope of receiving enough money to buy his next meal. Unfortunately the book contained almost no plot – instead it meandered from one non-event to another. The stream-of-consciousness writing style was almost bearable, but the light-hearted tone annoyed me.
I appreciate that it may be an accurate description of a person on the verge of despair, but I’m afraid I couldn’t connect with it. I abandoned it after about 80 pages.
Have you read either of these books?
Did you enjoy them more than I did?