Piglet: A Novel

Image of Piglet: A Novel
Release Date: 
February 27, 2024
Henry Holt and Co.
Reviewed by: 

“As a debut novel, Piglet is ambitious, sitting somewhere in the middle of the Venn diagram where comic women’s fiction, literary fiction, and absurdism meet.”

Piglet, the title character in Lottie Hazell’s debut novel, is an up-and-coming cookbook editor in a London publishing house who has just moved into her dream home with Kit, her handsome, hot fiancé. She has good friends and, to all outward appearances, a good life. But let’s be honest, can a grown woman who is still carrying around the childhood nickname Piglet really be said to have a good life? Can we even call her grown?

Piglet’s life revolves around food—thinking about it, writing about it, shopping for ingredients, preparing it, serving it, and, most of all, eating it. Food is her balm and her performance art. When she and Kit have a housewarming dinner, the boxes aren’t even unpacked, but Piglet roasts a chicken and serves bread and confit garlic butter, salads, and espresso semifreddo with caramel for dessert. And yes, you can bet that caramel is homemade.

Piglet is overly focused on the exterior, on appearances. So much so that physical descriptions of characters are limited while descriptions of what they’re wearing or what they’re eating abound. Such as when Piglet and Kit do a last-minute mirror check before their housewarming dinner:

“Piglet turned, appraising him: handsome in his chambray button-down shirt and the fitted sand-coloured trousers they had chosen together. She reached forward, undoing a third button, the hollow of his chest now visible between the folds of his collar. He raised an eyebrow. She turned back to their reflection.

“It’s summertime,” she said. “And it’s our home.””

Piglet has also announced that she’s going to bake her own wedding cake. Not just any wedding cake, mind you, but a croquembouche, which consists of three towers of custard-filled pastries. The croquembouche recipe comes with warnings—the profiteroles have to be eaten the same day they’re filled, the custard can’t sit for more than eight hours, the entire cake must be consumed the day it’s assembled. Any normal person would not choose to wake hours early on their wedding day to make such a thing, but “Once she had started to say she would make a croquembouche, she could not stop. Her ambition, her ability, had been so simply distilled by this one decision, this action, and the temptation to talk about it was always too much.”

Piglet is embarrassed by her family and their middle-brow tastes and middle-class budget. Kit’s wealthy, picture-perfect family is her family of aspiration. For the first third of the novel, it’s kind of hard to like such a judgmental, seemingly shallow character. Then, two weeks before the wedding, Kit confesses a deep betrayal, which throws their seemingly smooth, perfect exterior into interior chaos. Piglet continues on as planned—going to dress fittings, seeing Kit’s family, and being the bride-to-be at work. Inwardly she’s seething, hurt, and, most of all, hungry.

Hazell hits her stride as Piglet begins the process of unraveling in the wake of Kit’s betrayal. For the reader, it isn’t schadenfreude—there isn’t the feeling of “Finally the stuck-up girl is getting her comeuppance.” Rather, the reader finally starts getting small glimpses of the real Piglet. It’s also where the pace picks up and Piglet becomes a pretty fun read.

Hazell has structured the book with a strict chronology, starting at 98 days before the wedding and leading up to the day itself and the immediate aftermath. This ticking time bomb trope adds the barest form of urgency and plot to what is very much a character-driven book

The novel hits a lot of the right notes—humor, absurdity, pathos, and ultimately, growth. Piglet the character’s stubborn focus on the exterior is also Piglet the novel’s biggest obstacle—as readers, we never really get under Piglet’s skin. For instance, the true origin of her family nickname resonates especially deeply but isn’t explored. It’s brushed under the rug the way so many past traumas are. Perhaps that’s the point Hazell is trying to make. There’s a lot to unpack in Piglet—expectations, superficiality, and women’s relationship with food and with their own bodies. As a debut novel, Piglet is ambitious, sitting somewhere in the middle of the Venn diagram where comic women’s fiction, literary fiction, and absurdism meet. Does it work? Mostly, yes.