Monday, 7 July 2014

Season to Taste: Or How to Eat Your Husband, by Natalie Young

Season To Taste, Natalie YoungSeason to Taste is the story of ordinary housewife Lizzie Prain, who one day caves in the back of her husband's head with a spade on the spur of the moment. She considers her options and what would be the best way to dispose of the body. Being a logical, pragmatic soul and bearing the environment and the feelings of the locals in minds, Lizzie concludes that the best way to dispose of her husband's remains is to eat him. Eyeballs, bones and all. 

It's clear from the gradual way that Lizzie reveals memories of her husband, Jacob, that he was something of an  unpalatable man, so her decision to consume him certainly tests her resolve, her imagination and her cooking ability (the one skill Jacob would ever admit she possessed). Turning Jacob's flesh into a series of appetising meals is no small task, and that's before she's even sat down to eat them.

I really warmed to Lizzie, despite her technical criminality. I admired her self control, which is evident fro the very first page. The novel's first scenes begin with Lizzie calmly adjusting the seat in her Volvo, breathing in what remains of her husband's "buttery...tobacco" smell as she drives to the shop to purchase the vegetables she will need for her Jacob-based menu. Her tone is matter-of-fact and precise from the beginning as she assesses her options and calmly makes her decisions. She is not usually one for rash actions and is inherently sensible. Her motives become clear as the story goes on, and it becomes easier and easier to empathise with Lizzie's plight. Freed from her misogynistic and controlling husband, Lizzie dreams of a simple, frugal life in Scotland- a new start and a chance to be by herself.It reminds the reader frequently that not all domestic abuse is physical and that fear can drive people to the most remarkable actions. 

I had to admire the author's skill at making the reader empathise so completely with a character as they tuck into what remains of a human leg. It's quite a conflicting reading experience, simultaneous pangs of sympathy and gut churning revulsion. Natalie Young writes incredibly delicately of the life of dismissal, belittlement and neglect that Lizzie endured living with Jacob, but also does an excellent job of showing why unconfident or shy people might find themselves trapped in an unhappy marriage through no fault of their own. It seems to be the curse of the gentle, the unhappy or the optimistic to be taken advantage of like Lizzie

The book's structure sees little additions of Lizzie's, written in a brisk, detached way offering helpful tips- how best to fillet a human torso, what to do when one feels a confession brewing, things to remember when justifying your decisions...It's this sense of detachment, developed through her desperately unhappy marriage and her husband's psychological abuse that helps Lizzie through her grisly task. She's well practised at confining these unsavoury tasks into a mental box and locking it away. In the end it's Jacob that crafted a person that was so suited to quietly killing and disposing of him. It's sad really that Lizzie feels it's the only thing she ever truly achieved in all her time as a his wife.

It's not going to be a book that everybody enjoys because of the gruesome nature of the plot- but I think it's a really interesting portrayal of the aftermath of a marriage. It becomes almost a cleansing experience for Lizzie, she becomes a different person be consuming another, which I think people will be able to relate to. Metaphorically, obviously. Or at least I hope metaphorically...

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