301 pages, Kindle edition
Review by Paul Fenton
I used to think I was a bit weird. Then I read Tartare by M. Trevelean, and I now consider myself utterly normal. John Smith ordinary. I humbly bow down before the warped mind which created this excellent book.
Tartare tells the story of Edgar Ferrol, a smoker from Edinburgh who has decided to quit. The combination of the general smoking ban in the UK and the death-by-lung cancer of a family member is enough to push Edgar to toss the death sticks in the trash.
But is it enough to make him leave them there?
The craving for cigarettes is not something Edgar can easily shake, and he finds it affecting his mood, his sleep, his personal and work life. Then, one night out at dinner with colleagues, he mistakenly orders the steak tartare. Rather than admit his error, he eats it small bite by small bite and discovers that his cravings for cigarettes have abated. Raw meat, it seems, is the only thing capable of curing him of his addiction, and that soon becomes the only thing he can eat. Naturally he moves on from mince and steak to more uncommon delicacies, kidneys and liver and other rare cuts. Unfortunately for Edgar the effects wear off after a time, and he has to eat more frequently to quell his desire for cigarettes, and expand his palate to creatures not normally found in a butcher’s display case, the fresher the better.
How far do things escalate? I don’t want to spoil the fun for readers, but if you feel squeamish at the idea of carving fresh steaks off your pet kitty and picking your teeth with her tail bones, then you should probably stay away from this book. If you can cope with that, however, I strongly recommend you take a trip inside Edgar Ferrol's dark and fractured mind, and ride it right to the twisted (and wonderful) end.
It takes great skill to provide a first-person perspective on such a sick mind while still maintaining that thread of empathy, the leash the author tugs on to pull you along, and Trevelean pulls it off with almost uncanny ease. Edgar Ferrol might make me sick at times, but I'll still root for him to best his boss, to get the girl, and to get a good meal ... though not necessarily in that order.