I loved Lizzie Prain. For fifty-odd years, Lizzie has lived an unremarkable, unsatisfied and often upsetting life. For Lizzie, she blames a whole host of reasons for the way her life has turned out. She doesn’t really blame herself, however; rather, it’s very much what has happened to her; the unfairness of it all. But, finally, she decides to finally do something about it herself. She will not live the rest of her life so tragically – we only get one, after all. So, she takes the first step: murdering her husband, Jacob. Hurrah! Lizzie crosses the line with grace and with her pragmatic shoes on. She is neither hysterical nor histrionic; she is not dramatic; and she does not weep. Lizzie Prain, calmly and with strength, kills her husband, dismembers him and neatly labels each part before freezing him. And then, progressively as she makes her arrangements for her new life, she consumes him. Again, she does it without crying emotion. She does this with a great deal of talent – not just in the light of mental endurance, but with culinary flare.
If anything, Lizzie is not a modern woman. She doesn’t bother with marriage counselling, meditation or trying to find herself spiritually. She doesn’t waste money on self-help books and aromatherapy oils. Lizzie is old-school British resourceful and, yes, she’s probably quite unhinged, but she doesn’t come across that way. This book is told in such a matter-of-fact sort of way that you, too, sometimes forget to be shocked at her crimes of murder and cannibalism.
The criticism? I have read a lot of reviews about this one, as it is such a fascinating book. It seems that people wanted more justification for Jacob’s death; that it wasn’t darkly comic enough; that it was a spot too gory; that it didn’t dissect Lizzie’s motive properly. People seem to want the baddies (or in this case the anti-heroes) to be fully justified. It’s interesting. We accept goodness without question; we need to explain badness. Lizzie Prain is bad. That is how she is presented. But she is so normal too. My criticism is that I like my villains a little bit menacing; controlled malevolence with a dash of camp. Lizzie does not revel in her wickedness. She’s too real. I also like climatic endings. Season to Taste ends how it starts; marinating in unvarnished commonality. It fizzles out. For these two reasons, which ultimately amount to the same thing: a lack of fictive sensationalism, for me it loses a mark. But that’s not the point of this yarn. Lizzie is anyone living anyone’s life. She doesn’t need any more motivation that simply being human. This book is a triumph.