Tag Archives: Natalie Young

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

If there is one thing I like in a book it is that, in this case almost literally, it brings something new to the table. Be it a different spin on something, a subject to my attention that I haven’t thought about before or may even have written off, whatever the case a book with a quirk gets a big tick. As does a book with many layers, I love picking up a novel thinking it will be about one thing when really it is so much more Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband (which we will just call Season To Taste from now on) by Natalie Young is a book that does both of those things. It is a book about murder and cannibalism, the latter which I naturally would avoid, which is also a book about so much more. It might get a little squeamish in places, though it is most certainly worth it.

Tinder Press, 2014, hardback, 288 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

One day, seemingly out of the blue, in the garden of her country cottage Lizzie Prain hits her husband of thirty years over the head with a spade and kills him. Rather than ring the police, or simply bury his body in the garden or nearby woods Lizzie takes it upon herself to get rid of the body in another way, by eating it. By her calculations she can freeze it and eat it over the matter of a few weeks, maybe a month, and then go to Scotland and find a new life for herself. We follow her from recently murdering her husband until she is ready to consume the very last mouthful.

She opened up the freezer. His right hand, wrapped in a bin liner and labelled in marker pen on a sticky label, was at the top, in one of the removable wire baskets attached to the rim. It was resting on the bag that contained the left hand. The other parts were underneath the baskets, piled up and labelled in black bags, and mixed in with the frozen vegetables.

In a novel such as Season to Taste it would be very easy for the author to sensationalise it all, going to town on the horror of it all. One of the many things that I liked so much about Natalie Young’s second novel is that she never over dramatises the act of murder and cannibalism instead Young takes the more silent and subdued approach wrapping a shocking act firmly in reality. We follow Lizzie as she goes into some strange denial-meets-out of body functionality, one minute working out how on earth she can cook her husband before then working out where she can get a decent set or ten of rubber gloves – would the supermarket or the garden centre be more ideal? There is also a dark humour in moments like that too, dare I say one may chuckle as they ponder which they would go for?

Really though I don’t think cannibalism is the heart of what the story is about. Really it is about is Lizzie, and interestingly I still don’t think of Lizzie as a cannibal despite what she does (I do think of her as a real person though clearly) and at no point do you find what she has done is evil or despicable, in fact you just feel very sad for her. She encapsulates what it is like for anyone to be unhappy without really being aware they are until a sudden moment in their life, in a way it is about depression and how we know something isn’t right but we can’t work out what – as someone who has had depression on and off in the past I found how Natalie wrote this stunningly insightful. Lizzie was a woman whose husband was controlling. He wasn’t a man who punished her, though he may have been having an affair, he didn’t scream or shout and wasn’t violent, he was manipulative in other more silent ways and Lizzie became trapped, a victim of a safe marriage she so seemed to crave.

There was the time she’d found him trying to hang himself from a tree by standing on paint cans he’d put on the wall at the bottom of the garden. Possibly he’d been doing it for attention. He’d looked back at the house to see her standing in the kitchen window. Then, after a while, he’d given up. He’d let his neck out of the noose and come back in, smiling, to put the kettle on.

It also marvellously and rather emotionally, creates the feeling that I am sure many of us have had when we become aware that we are stuck in a rut. You have those feelings of despair and boredom yet simultaneously feel that you are safe and that being almost unsettlingly settled might actually be the best you can achieve in life. The when you break away from the rut and do something different or drastic the feelings of elation come, tinged with fear and a sense that maybe boring and stuck was the better option. I have not had these feelings as well evoked in a novel as I have in Season to Taste.

Really, and do bear with me when I say this, Season to Taste also a novel about grief and how it feels to lose someone, be it as they have left you, you have left them, simply vanished or have died – even if you killed them. You can be the one to end a relationship, just as you can if you have been deserted, and still feel the grief of its loss, the denial that it has happened and the mixture of fear and joy of what is coming ahead. This is depicted at its rawest as Lizzie tries to function in a new life of freedom following an old life of regulation.

Since Monday, then, Lizzie had worn the peg and sniffed menthol and eucalyptus. She had taken to standing in the shed where whiffs of her living husband were still in the air. There were three or four moments of pure denial this week when all senses agreed Jacob was still alive. She smelt him that afternoon in the shed, and then felt him as a breath at her neck at the kitchen table on Monday and Tuesday night. She even thought she’d seen him briefly in the garden, first thing on Wednesday morning, crouching over his hole.

How does Lizzie cope? Well you will have to read Season to Taste to find out but I can say that her coping mechanism is brought to us through a series of bullet points in the novel of some of the voices in Lizzie’s head after Jacob’s death. There is the angry vindicated voice ‘The world is full of parasites.’ There is the factual voice ‘It is going to take you less than a month. Think a fortnight. Think three weeks max.’ There is the practical and purposeful voice ‘All sorts of interesting recipes can be found on the internet.’ or ‘A bit of crispy celery might be nice.’ There is also that unbearably grief stricken voice ‘Put the dog’s bed in your bedroom if it helps you feel less alone.’ It is through these insights that we see all the complexities of Lizzie, even if no one else including herself can.

I hugely admire what Natalie Young has done with Season to Taste. It would have been easy with a subject like this to have gone for a really sensational and gory-for-sales novel. Yet instead she has creates a much more subtle and intricate tale of an average woman who has ended up in an average life and wishes she wasn’t and then acts on it in a moment of a breakdown. Don’t get me wrong, some of the book is not for the faint hearted and I wouldn’t advice reading it whilst eating (I may never see scrambled eggs in the same way again) but the rawness, yet sensitivity, of the subjects of grief, loss and despair are almost unbearably brilliant. It is also in many places deliciously darkly humorous, I giggled grimly all too often. So as you can probably tell I thoroughly recommend you spend time with Lizzie Prain, I won’t forget her in a hurry.

For more insights into Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband you can hear myself and Natalie in conversation on the latest episode of You Wrote the Book here.

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Filed under Books of 2014, Natalie Young, Review, Tinder Press

Future Book Thoughts…

So all the shelf moving and book sorting has been completed and it has been unnervingly cathartic. I say unnervingly as who would have thought I would enjoy getting books out of the house to new homes? Yet strangely I did. Now that the shelves have all been trimmed down and reorganised (some possibly by the height of the books, is that really anal?) I have also created some kind of system. Whilst I haven’t organised them in exact release date order (which I freely admit I contemplated before telling myself a) I have a life b) not that much of one as I actually have a file with book press releases in date order – let’s move on shall we?) there is a vague sense of when they have come out, sort of. As I was doing this I noticed that I had quite a few books that are coming out in 2014 already, sixteen to be exact. This made me ponder about books of the future and how much I should talk about them or not?

2014

You see what worries me is that some people might come across this post and think of it as showing off, bragging or being a book tease if I am putting pictures like the above up here. I myself have often thought ‘oh stop showing off’ when on twitter I have seen the umpteenth tweet of a picture of some big book of the year six months in advance or when someone is going on about how they are flicking through the brochures of the next six months/year and all the books they will be asking for. Maybe it is all down to the way it is delivered? Which makes me ponder where the line between enthusiasm and excitement and simply showing off is? I hope it is in the intention and that, like with the incoming posts I have brought back, you know that my intention here isn’t to brag – I just love books and get excited about them.

However, the other thing that I have been thinking about in regard to these advance copies of books is just what the point of reading anything too early is? I will admit I read Natalie Young’s book on the train back from London as I couldn’t resist it. I am desperate to read the new Armistead Maupin because ‘Tales of the City’ is one my favourite series (same for Yrsa Sigurdardottir) and I am busting to read Emma Healey’s, because it is about Alzheimer’s which is something close to my heart and having met her (and hearing how her mum reads this blog, hello Ms Healey, and apparently ‘loves it’ – which authors take note; I am that easy to please) and she was lovely. Being a lovely author matters, just to throw that out there, which is why Naomi Wood and James Smythe’s books are also calling to me – not that any authors pictured above aren’t lovely, I just haven’t met them yet. Anyway… BUT. BUT. BUT.

The big issue with all this is, who will I have to talk about them with? If I see a blog about a book coming out in 3 weeks, let alone 3 to 6 months, I either think ‘oh lovely, might come back to that review later’, which realistically won’t happen as a few months or weeks down the line having not read the post in full I will most likely have forgotten where I saw it, or as above  think ‘stop showing off’ depending on who the blogger is.

I can understand it from the publishers point of view. They want people to read their books. The market is really competitive, advance books can get a buzz building nicely. It can also be a bit alienating. There is one title at the moment, which I won’t name, that I am already bored of seeing the hashtag for and it isn’t even out for three months. I actually saw the lovely Jojo Moyes tweeting only today (maybe yesterday or the day before) about Mrs Hemingway and wanting to talk to someone about it, anyone, but have that many people read the advance proof that has come in yet? I am keen to read mine but not too early, so who did Jojo find to have a chat about it with? That was a rhetorical question to which sadly I don’t know the answer.

What I do know though is that (despite my lax commenting of late, which I blame just on catching up on life since post-Gran but is constantly on my to do list) I really like to have a chat about books on here and out in the lands of social media. I have read Natalie Young’s ‘Season To Taste’ and it was brilliant, but apart from the author (who actually I am interviewing in advance for next years You Wrote The Book episode) and the publishers and one or two bloggers, who do I have to chat about it and how cliquey does that make us look? It is the same with the Emma Healey novel ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, I am desperate to read it but who will I have to talk to about it before June? Well, actually, there is Emma’s Mum – hello again Ms Healey! It makes it tricky, how to get the equilibrium right?

So I thought I would ask you lovely lot, after all you are the ones who pop by and most of you aren’t in the bookish industry so it would be really interesting to hear how you all feel about hearing about books in advance. Do you like it, are you put off by it, do you really care? How far in advance is too far in advance? Would you rather hear about paperbacks over hardbacks (this links into something else I have been thinking about) or be reminded of the review when the paperback comes out? All thoughts welcomed and I promise to reply to all of you whilst also going back over last month (or maybe two) comments whilst I am at it. Looking forward to discussing what you think.

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Filed under Random Savidgeness