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This week's Culture Vultures recommend:

John Saturnall's Feast, Inferno (A Poet's Novel), and Sirène absinthe verte


John Sauternall's Feast

Diana Slickman, ensemble member of Theater Oobleck and BoyGirlBoyGirl, can't put down:

John Saturnall's Feast I'm reading a terrific novel: John Saturnall's Feast, by Lawrence Norfolk. It's about a boy in 17th-century England, orphaned after his mother starves to death, who goes on to become the most celebrated chef in the country. Part romance, part cookbook, part history, part mythology, and wholly engaging. Comparisons will inevitably be made to Dickens (orphan boy protagonist, rags to riches, historical backdrop) but Norfolk's style is less prolix and more involving—mysteries and characters unfold slowly against a vivid rendering of life before and during the English civil war. We live in a golden age of culinary innovation right now, but reading about the dishes on Saturnall's menu will make you wonder how we lost our former glory. Norfolk lived in Chicago for a time (he lives in his native London now) and he'll read at the Book Stall in Winnetka on September 24.

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