Anthropophagy is rather a mouthful but mention cannibals to your average reader and they will more than likely conjure up images of missionaries stumbling into tribal cooking pots. This unlikely title will certainly get you sitting at the table ready for the literary starter but the fleshy main course is comprised of an unlikely fusion of a group of male Oxford dons, an underground gastronomic society and the last will and testament of one of their number to have his body sampled as the ultimate test of the culinary palate.
Arthur Plantagenet is the prize dish in this epicurean fantasy, but it is Augustus Bloom who is the moral compass as he treads a delicate path between loyalty to his friend’s dying wishes and what is acceptable in the changing social and legal landscape of the 1960s.
The Oxford educated author is a medical graduate who manages to give this edgy theme a humorous underbelly which is perfectly captured by the seeming inability of the academic and closeted male mind to deal with the wider implications of what they have been asked to do.
Plantagenet is superficially a crusty old don whose love of food and drink is reflected by his ample girth and a real world detachment desire but his joie de vivre shines through and is mirrored by the affection in which he is held by students and dons alike.
However his ultimate demise though not unexpected is just the precursor to a moral dilemma that becomes impossible to avoid once the strict conditions of the will are revealed to the colourful group of gastronomic executors.
The build up to the final meal is both humorous and macabre pushing the boundaries of good taste but because of its cultural context and the relative innocence of the key participants humour and empathy prevent the reader from becoming too judgemental.
Ultimately if Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers were still alive they would be falling over themselves for the roles of Arthur Plantagenet and Augustus Bloom as this plot is tailor made for an Ealing comedy.
The Reluctant Cannibals by Ian Flitcroft
Published by Legend Press. Price £7.99
- Rich Reviews rating: