Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Kennedy’

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy ~ 1950. This edition: Faber, 2021. Softcover. 435 pages.

This is going to be my year for reading Margaret Kennedy. I’ve been stalling on her for way too long. Or maybe just keeping her in the wings for a time when I need something a bit extra good?

So. The Feast. I’ll bet most of my regular readers are way ahead of me on this one, at least if the number of reviews I’ve read are a clue. Let me see if I can keep this tidy and not too revealing of the details. Here we go.

Cornwall, 1947. A terrible disaster has just occurred. A section of sea cliff has suddenly collapsed, completely obliterating a small private hotel and all of the people inside it. We know this right up front; we get a look over the shoulder of the local Anglo-Catholic priest who has been tasked with coming up with a sermon for the memorial service. (The victims remain entombed.)

But not everyone who should have been in the hotel perished. There were survivors. Who they were, and who perished, remains a mystery to the reader until the last few pages, and though one finds oneself guessing away like mad, one isn’t quite sure.

Except in my case, for my husband blurted out the ending when he saw me walking past with the book because he thought I’d already read it. It didn’t really ruin my reading experience, because I cried out, “Stop!” and he twigged to the situation and immediately apologized, but I would recommend you treat this one like a good old-fashioned whodunit and don’t try to find too much out about it beforehand.

Here’s all I’ll say:

An eclectic array of guests arrive at the small seaside hotel. Every one of them – including the children – carry with them secrets. As do the owners of the hotel, and the staff. Some of these secrets will be revealed, some won’t, and some are directly responsible for the fates of the secret-bearers on the fatal day of the landslide.

Mysterious enough for you?

I’ll say a bit more, because I didn’t “get” this till after, when I went back to read the foreword. I usually skip forewords – so many spoilers! In this case, it’s really interesting, and adds another layer of guesswork to the reading experience.

Seven of these characters have been crafted by the author to represent one each of the Seven Deadly Sins. We aren’t told this in the narrative, but if you read the introduction by Cathy Rentzenbrink it’s all laid out, and then you get to spend the entire length of the book trying to figure out who is which. Some are easy, some not at all.

Tragic ending aside, this is a very clever and frequently very humorous novel; the awfulness of the worst characters is balanced by the goodness of the best ones.

Highly recommended. My rating: I’m going to give it a 10/10. Enjoy!


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