Monday, March 1, 2010

As Meat Loves Salt - Maria McCann

This book is set in seventeenth century England, during the Civil War. The protagonist is on the run from service at a country estate, and becomes conscripted into Cromwell's New Army. Trouble accompanies him wherever he goes. The book is dark, claustrophobic, stinking, violent, paranoid, and passionate. It is also addictive. Our hero is a sociopath, whose jealousy and paranoia make him quite unlovable. His actions are appalling, and his inability to read human behavior is disastrous in consequence. And yet, we root for him. We want him to become a better man and we celebrate his earnest desire to reform himself, even though we know he's doomed. Travelling through the novel with such a disturbed guide makes for a skin-crawling experience. We dislike ourselves as we inhabit his world view, and we want him to be loved, and transformed. Somehow this book manages to be both repulsive and enthralling. We're not in Jean Plaidy territory here.