At the weekend I started reading Natalie Young’s Season to Taste, one of the more challenging books I’ve picked up, well, ever really. I wasn’t expecting it to be troublesome, or that I would have such a strong reaction to it. It has been described as “a deliciously subversive treat” and as a very, very dark fable. Both of which things I usually enjoy reading but I got about halfway and had to stop because I thought I was going to be sick.
Then I found I couldn’t stop thinking about Lizzie Prain, and wondering what she was going to do, how it was all going to end. Because the writing is that GOOD! So, after a couple of hours I picked it up again and finished it, and because I was more aware of just how bleak and descriptive it is, I didn’t react quite so viscerally. Two days later I still feel a little dazed and stunned and want to tell people about it.
Lizzie Prain is an ordinary housewife. Fifty-something. Lives in a cottage in the woods, with her dog Rita. Likes cooking, avoids the neighbours. Runs a little business making cakes. Last Monday, on impulse, Lizzie caved in the back of husband Jacob’s head with a spade. And if she’s going to embark on the new life she feels she deserves after thirty years in Jacob’s shadow, she needs to dispose of his body. Her method, like the book, is not for the faint-hearted. She embarks on eating the body. This is told in a mixture of a narrative of her experiences as she “processes” the body and works out the best ways to cook each part, and a sort of list of gruesomely practical how-to points that you need to consider as you plan how to cook and eat your husband – I think what threw me a bit was how Young must have thought very hard about the whole process in order to compile this fascinatingly comprehensive list, you find yourself reading and nodding complicitly, thinking, ‘Ooh, yes, you would have to think of that…’ and ‘hmmm, good point…’
It is quite an amazing book, the characters sort of haunt you, and I have found the blunt, unadorned details that shocked me have faded in the light of the bigger questions that story explores. Don’t think this is one for everyone but do try it – it might be quite to your taste.