An enjoyable, ebullient and entertaining read – just as long as you avoid mealtimes
Ian Flitcroft’s unusual first novel is certainly darkly comic, full of vigour, and often, absolutely disgusting as it cheerfully, gleefully, crashes across all sorts of inbuilt gustatory taboos. Food taboos are pretty well always local and cultural, except of course that cannibalism is fairly widely regarded as taboo.
So……….we already know in advance that somewhere lurks fine dining, not so much WITH friends, as ON friends.
That isn’t the half of it. I queasily fought the gag response at the description of the delights (or otherwise) of a dish composed of witchety grubs, and I suspect that as a vegetarian I might have been more than usually upset at the details which start, first take your live squill………
In fact, it was pretty well only in the descriptions of dessert and fine wines that the gag reflex settled
Although Flitcroft – himself a brave gourmand, sampling rare and forbidden foods from all round the world (want a recipe for scorpion or snake? – the author is your man) – probably lingers a little too long on various fine and rare vintage wine descriptions to amuse anyone except a serious oenophile, and has perhaps too firm a fixation for rare flesh to be frequently paired with cooking with fennel (not another bed of, sauce of fennel – aren’t there any other vegetables??) this is for the most part a most enjoyable shock of a book. There is no gratuitous violence, no gratuitous sex, but there is a lot, an awful lot, of very dirty dining!
I laughed a lot, and enjoyed the cast of always larger than life eccentrics to be found within its Oxford University setting. Flitcroft himself an Oxford educated Dr of Neurophysiology, who now specialises as a consultant eye surgeon. I know, it hardly bears thinking about, in the context of this book’s title.
The story concerns a group of Oxford dons, with a secret bizarre dining club, a peculiar will, and a handful of undergraduates who stumble upon the existence of the club and attempt some investigations in order to learn more………black comedy student detective work meets Diner’s Cabal!
I lost it a star because I do think some of those loving food and wine descriptions could have been pared back, they began to become a bit tedious – though I’m completely sure that the fine diners who know their wines will fiercely, bibulously disagree.
And I recommend it, with a warning that it may not be for those of a sensitive gastric disposition
The publisher’s blurb describes it as having a shocking climax. I demur, instead regarding it as rather perfectly poised