Who would have thought small town and academic politics could be so interesting? Our heroine retreats from society to a small unimportant little institute for the arts far away from her home. She is escaping the pity of friends and strangers upon being left at the altar. She is devastated and depressed. How she finds her way back to being her charming charismatic self is the thrust of the novel. Along the way, she grows attached to her colleagues and acquaintances, as do we. They are ordinary people with full helpings of both good and bad, strengths and weaknesses. Surely even the most ordinary-seeming of people would become extra-ordinary if observed by a writer such as Ms Kennedy. Unexpected things happen in unexpected ways. One of the things I liked best about the book, besides character studies and developments was that the plot did not advance down a lazy and predictable tried and true path. The ending was excellent.
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy is not a romance, romantic comedy, or a mystery or a thriller or “women’s fiction” or any other type of book I usually gravitate to. It is a novel-length character study of over 20 players. They are all gathered at a family estate turned vacation guest house on the Cornish coast at the base of a cliff. The evil, the disgusting, the pitiable, the contemptible, the good, the innocent, the admirable, the irritating, the heroic, the strong and the weak are all dissected and revealed with a surgeon’s expertise.
We know from the beginning that a portion of the 23 now lies crushed to death by the fallen cliff. By the end, we know that the dead are not innocent victims of chance. They were the authors of their fate. As were those who were spared. The choice they made to attend “the feast” sprang from some goodness within them. It is beautifully written with many beautiful descriptions and thought-provoking passages. Describing the sadness and isolation of one of the characters towards the end of the book, Margaret Kennedy writes,
This was the second evening she would spend all alone up here, shut in with her troubles, while the light sank away….Dusk, in this room, had no soft and lingering tints; it was merely the failure, the death of day. And the silence of this room had no peace, no repose. It was sterile and empty.
I wish I had read this on Kindle because of its highlighting capabilities and ability to search and find certain parts about certain people. This is one of those books that one can reread again and again and find more meaning and insight each time. I learned of this book a couple of years ago thanks to the wonderful blog, which has since closed Dow, which sought to uncover and restore some of the “really-good-but-almost-entirely-forgotten books that “languish on library book shelves for decades” or “yard sales after someone’s grandma passes away.”