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?
Published on 16 January 2014 by Tinder Press, Season To Taste or How to Eat Your Husband is Natalie Young's second novel. I read and reviewed her first book We All Run Into The Sunlight in April 2011 and I said that I thought Natalie Young was an 'author to watch', and described her novel as 'strange yet compelling'. I stand by all I said!
There is a real ingenuity to Season To Taste. The idea behind it, the writing, the subtlety, the horror, the black humour, and yet it is quite sedate, almost staid - very steady.
I am giving nothing away by telling you that the story begins just as Lizzie has murdered her husband Jacob. She battered him around the head with a garden spade on on ordinary Monday morning. Lizzie has endured a long and miserable marriage, and she certainly does not intend for anyone to make her suffer now that Jacob is finally gone. So, her idea to make sure that she can get away and start her new life in Scotland is that she will chop up Jacob into sixteen pieces, bag and label each part of him, freeze the parts and eat them over the next few weeks. She'll cook them in different ways; grill, stew, barbeque, grill. She'll season him well with; lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices. Then she will leave, and then she will be happy.
This story is told in a very matter-of-fact way, don't expect a fast and furious read, and don't expect to read of Lizzie's sorrow or regret, or panic, or dismay. Lizzie knows what she is doing, and how she will do it, and focusses entirely on her freedom. Be prepared though for some stomach-churning descriptive prose when reading about the process of dismembering the body and the cooking of each part. Natalie Young has a wonderfully macabre imagination that transposes to her writing quite beautifully.
Not everything goes quite as Lizzie plans; enter the character of Emmett, a old, wandering, senile man who poses a threat along the way.
Ultimately, underneath the horror of what Lizzie has done, is a story of a very broken relationship. The reader is given an insight into Lizzie and Jacob's marriage, and it is not a happy place to be. Lizzie is a woman whose mind is teetering on the edge, driven to do something so awful, and writing her own guide on how to cope along the way. The insight into marriage, and into a broken mind is chilling.
There are times when the story feels a little disjointed (no pun intended!), but overall, this is a very cleverly written novel with touches of very very black humour, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness and pity.
Natalie Young was born in 1976. She studied English at Bristol University and published her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, in 2011 while working as the Arts and Books Editor of ProspectMagazine. For several years before that she worked on The Times and contributed regularly to the Books section and to the Saturday Review. She has lived in France, Italy and Australia. She currently lives in London with her two children.
Follow her on Twitter @natalieyyoung