England, 1640s. Jacob Cullen is an educated, vigorous and dauntingly strong manservant in a Royalist household, who has begun to develop a dangerous interest in god-fearing revolutionary pamphlets. He is on the brink of marriage to his virginal sweetheart, but is unsure of his emotional needs, and in possession of a boiling point he reaches all too often. But Jacob is also afraid of being discovered as the murderer of a local boy and, as armed horsemen arrive on the very day of his wedding feast, it prompts a series of impetuous, temper-fuelled bad decisions: Jacob flees, dragging his new wife and one of his brothers with him. He proceeds to wreak havoc on the lives of others but mostly on his own fortunes – as a servant, a husband, a brother, a soldier, and, critically, as friend, co-conspirator and lover of another man disaffected by the lurch from freedom to tyranny now apparent in Cromwell’s New Model Army. To step outside the law, outside the state, outside the established and natural order of things seems to supply the only prospect of happiness… Gripping, unusual, packed with heady ingredients, As Meat Loves Salt plunges you into a world turned upside down by political fervour, inflammatory pamphleteering, social flux, grisly combat, apocalyptically evangelical Christianity, sexual confusion, and murder most foul.
Reviews of As Meat Loves Salt
- ‘A fat, juicy masterpiece. Jacob, who destroys what he loves with the rapacity of his desire, is as compelling as he is appalling…Most impressively, the writing here is flawless. These pages flow like claret.’ Economist
- ‘Early in the English Civil War, a body is dredged from the pond of a Royalist estate. “As Meat Loves Salt” is the testament of Jacob Cullen – homicide and fugitive. Obsessed with the graceful Christopher Ferris, he follows him to become a London printer, a Digger and, finally, an emigrant to the New World…An electrifying erotic thriller, rich in secrets and surprises.’ Independent
- ‘A novel teeming with life…a triumphant piece of historical evocation. McCann’s unflinching descriptions of battle are matched by the power of her depiction of London in all its fetid splendour. And in the character of Jacob himself, a strong but selfish man weakened by a violent temper and haunted by guilty dreams, McCann shows the imaginative empathy that is the hallmark of a true novelist.’ Vogue
- ‘A true delight, vivid, well written and, best of all, accessible…Maria McCann’s characters leap off the page and speak in contemporary voices that entirely convince.’ Daily Express
- ‘An intriguing and disturbing first novel which lingers in the mind…Tense with anguish, intimacy and shame, it imaginatively re-creates the mentality of a society racked by war and intoxicated by radical new ideas of freedom and change.’ TLS