“She writes fictional biographies, or biographical novels, whatever you want. She takes a well-packed scandal in the life of a famous person and turns it into a novel. All the facts that bother her are eliminated. Any details he pleases to invent are welcome. It saves her the trouble of constructing a plot and characters, and she doesn’t have to stick to the truth since it’s a novel, you see.”
I haven’t read the Cazalet saga but I let myself be tempted by the feast when I learned that the story unfolds in England in Cornwall in 1947.
In a few pages, I found myself in a hotel located at the bottom of a cliff while knowing that this hotel was going to end up buried but that all the residents were not going to die.
Thereby Feast, novel published in 1950, and republished with relevance by Editions de la table ronde in 2022, mixes certain ingredients of a good Agatha Christie book for the suspense side and episodes of Downtown Abbey in the incredible gallery of portraits (those of the customers, the family of owners but also of the personnel).
Seven days will thus pass during which we know of penniless owners and their three sons, of a widow Mrs Cove and her three little girls, of a couple each walled in their silence following a tragedy, of the luminous Nancibel and cantankerous Miss Ellis.
It’s a delight to read because Margaret Kennedy’s pen is fine, intelligent, incisive and so British (with the humor that goes with it).
Success also depends on the relationships that will be forged between the different residents, how these encounters will change them, reveal them, transform them.
And then of course as as a reader, we know from the start that the cliff is going to collapse, it brings a dose of tension and impatience.
I thought this feast would be light but inconsistent. It is not so because it is also a very tasty photograph of post-war England and class relations. I would almost have liked a sequel to find the characters!
Suspense, English humour, fine and spicy writing are the ingredients of this novel that is never too sweet and that I tasted to the last bite with real delight.
Margaret Kennedy – The Feast
The round table