Piglet by Lottie Hazell: book review

Piglet by Lottie Hazell

Overview: Piglet likes to lose herself in food. She works at a cookbook publisher, her love language is making elaborate dinners for groups of friends or family, and eating itself also numbs her pain and worries. Food is her compass. Set to be married in only a few weeks, Piglet is navigating the stress of her strained family relationships, her pretentious in-laws, and her best friend and maid of honor potentially going into labor at her wedding. When, two weeks out, Piglet's fiancé reveals that their relationships rests on a lie, Piglet has to weigh maintaining the perfectly composed life she's built against destroying it all in the name of honoring herself. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Piglet is deeply caring and hardworking. She's an immediately likable character, and we want to see her find genuine happiness. Unfortunately, her upcoming wedding does not seem likely to deliver that. When her fiancé reveals a devastating secret in the immediate lead-up to the wedding, Piglet feels strangled by the information. She spends the novel trying to contort herself to societal and familial expectations and only suffers more for it. While her heart knows what she needs to do, letting go of the marriage requires abandoning the stability she'd manufactured for herself. While she has a job and a successful career of her own, publishing doesn't pay very well, and she doesn't come from family money to fall back on. Kit, her fiancé, and his wealthy parents provide the comforts that Piglet has craved from supplying the downpayment on a house in Oxford to outfitting her kitchen full of Le Creuset cookware. With her sister already struggling financially, Piglet feels a sense of obligation to stick with this relationship and the financial security it provides, both for her and her family, even when it's already proven to be an emotional train wreck. 

The novel is very much about Piglet working through her feelings around marriage, societal conventions, and class, and she is by far the most developed character. Everyone else is a bit dimmer in the background. There are some compelling external threads in Piglet and her best friend Margot re-evaluating their friendship in light of Margot's newly baby-oriented life. Within Piglet's family, there's a solid sister story and also a subtle yet impactful narrative around Piglet's relationship with her father. Part of Piglet's inability to emotionally want more for herself comes from what she's witnessed in her parents' relationship and their values, and we see her reconcile that in real time. We never learn much about Kit (even down to the details of what he did to ruin the relationship). He simply is the story's catalyst.

Plot: 4 The book has a very quick pace. Having a countdown and then a chaos-filled wedding will certainly lend that to a book. Hazell also does a good job of taking a slow, emotionally nuanced story and making it unfold quickly by cherry picking only the most impactful, pivotal scenes and leaving the rest to the reader's imagination. In tandem with the will-they-won't-they of the wedding, Piglet is navigating intense relationship drama, questions around her career, and the difficult reality that you're the only one who can stand up for your needs at the end of the day. I finished the book in a weekend quite easily. 

Writing: 4 Lottie Hazell's writing is compulsively readable. The book and its style is pretty straightforward, which makes it easy to read for hours on end. Hazell got her PhD in creative writing centered on food writing, and that certainly comes through here. I love that she somehow finds a way to tie nearly every scene back to some kind of food anchor whether through cooking a particular meal or visiting a restaurant. It creates a consistent motif throughout the story and allows us to track Piglet's emotional center through her relationship with the food in the scene. 

I've seen lots of comparisons to The Supper Club by Laura Williams come up, and while I see the threads, Piglet feels fundamentally different to me. While there are themes of rejecting societal standards (like crash dieting before a wedding) through food in this book, Piglet struck me as exploring a relationship with food in a much more personal or intimate level than Super Club. They both have mouth watering food descriptions that take much of the book's real estate, though. I'd also say Piglet is a much lighter read than Super Club, too, as Super Club pushes for the darker, grittier parts of some of their mutual themes. 

I would personally comp Piglet to one of my favorite compulsively readable books of last year, The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan. This is another will-they-won't-they wedding story, and while it grapples with somewhat different questions and utilizes an alternative structure, the books both have a similar tone, pacing, and theme of reckoning with societal expectations vs happiness.

This is a great debut novel, and I'll certainly be checking out whatever Hazell comes up with next.

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Supper Club review

The Happy Couple review

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