Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she is to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left inpeace. Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs singlehandedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.
From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.
The first night lengthens into weeks as Sally starts to find pleasure in working with the bees, feeding the chickens, and harvesting potatoes. Eventually an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.
What I Thought:
Tasting Sunlight is one of a number of superb International books that are being brought to the UK by Orenda Books and, after spending three years in the German top 10, we’ve now been treated to this seemingly simple, but incredibly nuanced story of a cross-generational female relationship.
The two main characters could not be more different when they first appear – Sally is combative and instantly ready for ‘Fight or Flight’, while Liss is silent unless she absolutely needs to talk, taking in Sally’s situation without judgement. As the two women spend more time together, they begin to appreciate their differences, but also discover that they have much in common.
I thought this book was just beautiful – the emphasis on reconnecting with nature and being tired from real, manual work rather than just tired of life was striking and beautifully put across. As Sally begins to absorb the things Liss is teaching her, without really saying a word, she also begins to eat, finding that the need to feed her body ready for work is more motivation than any clinic in the world.
The way Liss treats Sally, as her own person, is markedly different to how her parents treat her and so she begins to flourish in Liss’ company. I did feel a moment of pause for Sally’s parents, but there is not enough of their back story to make a firm judgement about what they may have done right or wrong with Sally.
All the simple joys of nature are perfectly described in this book – the stillness and silence of a country morning, the sweetness of eating a pear striaght from the tree – set as the backdrop to a story of soul-mates who exist outside a romantic relationship.
Beautifully-written and, I’m sure, owing much to the translation by Rachel Ward, it’s an essentially hopeful book which perfectly puts two unique women at the fore.
Tasting Sunlight is published by Orenda Books.
About the Author & Translator:
Ewald Arenz was born in Nurnberg in 1965, where he now teaches. He has won various national and regional awards for literature; among them the Bavarian State Prize for Literature and the great Nuremberg Prize for Literature. One of seven children, he enjoys nature, woodturning, biking, swimming, and drinking tea. He lives with his family in Germany.
Rachel Ward: Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, I discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia. I spent my third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saarbrücken, Germany. During my final year, I realised that I wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation. Since then, I have been working in Norwich, UK, as a freelance translator of literary and creative writing from German and French to English.
This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Tasting Sunlight – for more reviews and exclusive content, check out the links below.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.