cover image The Glutton

The Glutton

A.K. Blakemore. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-6680-3062-2

Set in the last turbulent decades of the 18th century, Blakemore’s savory second novel (after The Manningtree Witches) is loosely based on the life of the Great Tarare, a French peasant renowned for his insatiable hunger. The story begins with Tarare chained to a hospital bed near Versailles, recounting his story to an incredulous nun named Sister Perpetué. Born in 1772 near Lyon, 17-year-old Tarare escapes after being beaten and left for dead by his mother’s salt-smuggling lover Nollet. He begins a new life with a band of traveling entertainers, whose enterprising leader capitalizes on Tarare’s talent for devouring anything and everything: “Trotters and snouts, sod and corks, snakes and rats, mice white and browning and throbbing in mute terror as they are dangled by their tails above the mouth, scrabbling their tiny person-like hands uselessly.” Tarare performs for an increasingly rebellious peasantry, who maraud throughout the countryside smearing human waste on the wrecked walls of abandoned chateaux. As war ravages Europe, Tarare becomes a soldier and a spy and ends up in the care of two doctors—one benevolent, the other cruel. When a child disappears, perhaps devoured by someone or something, Tarare vanishes. Atmospherically charged and written in eloquent and compassionate prose, this is a lusty feast. Agent: Anna Watkins, United Agents. (Oct.)