Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband – Natalie Young

Reminds me very much of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street
Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young

The clues are there in the title and the description but I never thought it would be so blatant. When I finished this book the other night I posted on Facebook wondering how I’d come down from a book like this and I’m still wondering. Here’s the description so you can start from the beginning.

Always let the meat rest under foil for at least ten minutes before carving… Meet Lizzie Prain. 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. No one has seen Lizzie’s husband, Jacob, for a few days. That’s because last Monday, on impulse, Lizzie caved in the back of his 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 appeals to all her practical instincts, though it’s not for the faint-hearted. Will Lizzie have the strength to follow it through? Dark, funny and achingly human, Season to Taste is a deliciously subversive treat. In the shape of Lizzie Prain, Natalie Young has created one of the most remarkable heroines in recent fiction.

There will be spoilers as I don’t think I can write this without so you are warned.

 

From here on in it’s on your head…or stomach.

Lizzie Prain did not have a happy marriage, she and her husband were really not compatible, they either should not have married or should have divorced fairly early on. They did neither of these and 30 years later Lizzie decides she’s had enough and while Jacob is in the garden working away she takes the garden spade and whacks him on the head until dead. She then has to figure out what to do. Following the Sweeney Todd convention, she dismembers him, cooks him and eats him except we’re not told if she cooked his head.

The Prains live in an isolated area, nearish to a village but remote enough that Lizzie’s actions attract little comment. She does eventually make friends with a local young man but this is the first friend she has in the area after 30 years and she has trouble maintaining that relationship.

I’ve read a few other reviews of this book and they all talk about the comedy throughout, comedy that I don’t see. I was struck by the horror of the book, how can a person be so thoroughly depressed and encompassed by another that she has to kill and eat him? I spent my time reading this book alternating between horror at the emotions behind this and appreciating the writing.

This book has three main ‘voices’. There is the description of what is happening, the notes Lizzie is writing to herself which are interspersed with the others and the voice of the young man, Tom Vickory. Hearing from Tom provides a more balanced counterpoint. I don’t know if I was imagining it but reading his chapters really felt a little calming.

I can’t decide whether I should thank Sainsbury’s eBooks for the opportunity to read this book or not. It is well written, I enjoyed how thoroughly Young went into the dismembering and cooking but I spent most of the book with a look of distaste. The recipes were fun to read when I was able to look past the meat in them. The counselling in the notes to self were good and many of them could be appropriated for other circumstances.

Do I recommend this book? Surprisingly, I do. There are many insightful moments and it’s definitely a word of warning to make sure you marry the right person. You don’t want to marry someone who turns out to have homicidal tendencies, let alone cannibalism. You do want to marry someone you actually have things in common with.