Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz and Rachel Ward (translator)
|Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz and Rachel Ward (translator)|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Beautifully written, you feel you are right there alongside Liss and Sally, walking the fields of rural Germany and tasting the sweet honey pears.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 276||Date: June 2022|
|Publisher: Orenda Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Sally is a teenager who has run away from an anorexia treatment clinic. She just wants space, and for people to stop questioning her, tiptoeing around her, and trying to fix her without ever truly understanding her. She finds herself on some farmland with a woman called Liss who is in her forties and seems to live alone. Liss is unlike any other adult Sally has ever met. She just accepts Sally as she is, giving her a room to sleep in, and the space to just be. As they work together on the farm, a closeness develops between them, becoming a beautiful, powerful friendship.
I think my favourite thing about this book was the sense of place. Set in rural Germany, on a farm in a tiny village, it harks back to a slower paced life. Liss is running her farm alone, and her days are set by the jobs that need doing on the farm. Sally slips into this life with Liss quickly and easily, picking up the way to do things almost instinctively, and finding herself transformed by the land, and by Liss herself.
Liss teaches Sally how to harvest the potatoes, how to check if the bees in the beehive have mites, and about all the different varieties of pears she is growing. Something about the style of the writing makes you slow right down, and the book becomes an experience that left me longing for the bite of a fresh, juicy pear! The translation feels superb, because there is nothing jarring at any point, and I never once thought about the fact that it had been translated, just enjoying the lyrical writing throughout. As we learn about the farm along with Sally, we also learn about the two characters. Both are damaged, though it isn’t initially apparent what has happened to them both. But as their stories slowly unfold, we watch them start to heal each other as they work the land together. Both Sally and Liss wormed their way into my head, and even though the book isn’t a long one, you feel as if you know them very well by the end.
They have both experienced darkness in their lives, and there are some shocking events as you read, and yet the book remains uplifting. Whilst Sally is anorexic, it is not a book about anorexia, nor is it a story about the emotional damage that Liss has sustained. It’s a story about the land, about the power of nature and the steadiness of the seasons. Watching the gentle trust that develops between Liss and Sally becomes something very beautiful and transforming, and it is a really lovely story to read, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
For another story with some beautiful farmland writing try Landed by Tim Pears or there is this delightful non-fiction book all about the English countryside The English Countryside (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Ruth Binney.
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