I have already mentioned this latest read of mine in some of my recent round-up posts, but it is so brilliant that today I am dedicating a whole post to my love for this book!
Cornwall, Midsummer 1947. Pendizack Manor Hotel has just been buried in the rubble of a collapsed cliff. Seven guests have perished, but what brought this strange assembly together for a moonlit feast before this Act of God – or Man?
Over the week before the landslide, we meet the hotel guests in all their eccentric glory: the selfish aristocrat; slothful hotelier; snooping housekeeper; bereaved couple; bohemian authoress; poverty-stricken children – and as friendships form and romances blossom, sins are revealed, and the cliff cracks widen . . .
Sometimes I love a book so much that I can’t seem to formulate the words to say why. I find it ridiculously frustrating. I come to a stuttering halt and can only feebly say, It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Please read it. Yes, feeble I know. But I have drawn some small comfort from discovering that other readers have been as lost for words as I am with this masterpiece of Kennedy’s.
Firstly though, you may have noticed that I haven’t put a category for this book. That’s because it amazingly doesn’t seem to fit any one type of genre. Kennedy’s writing has a whiff of Agatha Christie about it – a cosy crime feel – and yet it is also perfect for Du Maurier fans with it’s poetic Cornish setting and subtle thriller edge. However, when reading, it doesn’t feel like a crime or thriller novel at it’s heart. I read it believing it was neither and it’s only since finishing that I’ve noticed these traits (no spoilers). More than anything it’s utterly compelling fiction with the most gorgeous language. But it’s readable – really readable. Perfect summer sun lounger reading really. The most confusing thing about it was how many characters there were! I confess I did have trouble keeping up at points. Though I should also confess that I am a very passive reader – I tend not to try and work things out as I’m going along, but let it all unfold before me. This sometimes backfires when I realise (much later into the novel) that I should perhaps have payed just a tiny bit more attention to certain details…! On top of all that, it’s also a romance that had me rooting for more than one couple – with the possible watery eye…you know me! Oh! and as some of the sections were told from the children’s perspectives – great chunks of the book read like a children’s classic – think Edith Nesbit and The Railway Children. Honestly, it’s a real masterpiece!
Another element I loved was it’s structure. Much of it is told in prose from various different character perspectives, but this is interspersed with the epistolary form – letters between characters and also extracts from character diaries. I really loved the dimension this gave to the story. Particularly the way you would view certain characters from the outside in one section only to get literally inside their head in another!
The Feast was originally published in 1950, but has been re-published by Faber with a new foreword by author Cathy Rentzenbrink. I don’t know about you, but I tend to skip the foreword in a book and read it afterwards. I love books that have additional notes from other readers in them, it can add so much to your understanding and appreciation of a novel. However, they often give away elements of the plot (or if they are forewords to classics, they go on for pages and pages and sometimes put you off starting the book at all!). I like to be able to enjoy the book on my own personal level first and then read all extra material after – which is just what I did with The Feast. Cathy is a brilliant reader and writer so I was under no illusion that her notes would be good. In fact it was because her name was on the cover that I read the blurb of the book in the first place and made me know I had to read it – her book recommendations are always brilliant. And yes, her foreword was also fab.
I suppose really, my overriding feeling on finishing this book was that I wanted to go right back to page one and read it all over again; immediately – something I don’t say lightly as I’m not much of a re-reader in general! The Feast was great to read while not knowing what would happen, but I feel would be equally brilliant to read knowing what the end has in store… The narrative was so searingly perceptive in terms of character, politics, philosophy and human nature that there was much to think over and consider – even long after finishing. I particularly loved the window onto post second world war Britain – the snuffed out morale, disgruntled citizens, the petty grievances and selfishness, pitted against the joy that the simple acts of listening, giving, contributing and sharing can bring.
A disarmingly clever and thoroughly engaging read.
Thank you to Net Galley and Faber for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
In the end I bought my own copy of this brilliant book to read. I’m glad I did – it’s the kind of read you want to turn the pages for… if you know what I mean!
Have a good weekend 🙂