Whilst I’ll dip into almost any genre of fiction at one time or another, it’s the rather broad genre of Literary fiction that I’m mainly drawn to. The novels I enjoy most tend to have quirky characters and an off-beat storyline set against an ordinary world; they’ll often be stories within stories, and have the capacity to not only hook me from the first page, but to regularly surprise me, and I’ll be so captivated by the lyrical quality of the telling that I won’t want to put the book down, but won’t want to finish it either. Occasionally I’ll discover a book like that.
Consumed by Caroline Hamilton (ABC Books) has those attributes. That it’s the debut novel of a Melbourne author raises it another notch or two for me, because it’s good to know that a book like this is home-grown.
Subtitled A Sensuous Tale Of Food, Madness And Revenge, the blurb includes this:
'A literary feast for the senses, Consumed is an enthralling story of gluttony, madness, bottled tomatoes and a woman who will stop at nothing in her search for the perfect recipe.'
When this novel was first recommended to me (thanks C.B.), I was put in mind of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate, which used to be a favourite. However, apart from the obvious focus on food, occasional elements of the surreal, and the strength of writing in both, Consumed is fresh and original. It’s gutsy, sensual writing that strides all the way back to genesis at one point, but probably isn’t for the delicate or squeamish (which is possibly another recommendation in itself), and tells the story of the young Amelia, who strikes up a friendship with the mysterious and eccentric Katarina.
Under Katarina’s instruction, Amelia begins an apprenticeship that teaches her as much about living as it does about cooking food to perfection, with many surprises along the way---not least of all Katarina’s murder. (It’s in the blurb, I’m not spoiling anything here.)
Whilst it might be a cliché to say that revenge is a dish best served cold, Consumed is anything but clichéd, and the second half of the novel chronicles Amelia’s development and growth into a woman who belongs to all time and who is determined to avenge Katarina’s death. It’s the reaching back and linking to the story of Lilith, Adam’s first partner in the Garden of Eden, that is the most delicious dish of all in this fine book ... but I won’t say any more. I mustn’t.
It's an enchanting and superbly crafted novel.