Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz, translated by Rachel Ward. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital review copy.
About the Book
Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace.
Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. 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.
That night becomes weeks and then months, as 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.
Format: Paperback (276 pages) Publisher: Orenda
Publication date: 23rd June 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
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Liss lives alone on a farm in a small village in rural Germany. Her days are taken up with tending the crops and livestock, and managing the forest and vineyard that belong to the farm. Her life is a solitary one, partly by choice but also because she is shunned by most of the villagers for reasons that will only gradually become apparent. It’s also a life governed by the rhythm of the seasons. Sally’s unexpected arrival disrupts the settled routine of Liss’s life.
Initially it appears Sally is the damaged individual and Liss a source of strength and calm. Liss seems instinctively to understand how to respond to Sally allowing her to make her own decisions about when to eat, when to talk and when to participate in the life of the farm. Liss introduces Sally to different aspects of farming life such as harvesting potatoes and grapes or tending bee hives. I was struck by how some of the activities can be seen as metaphors for healing. For example, as Liss marks the trees in the forest that need to be thinned she says, ‘Sometimes you want a sapling to have enough light to grow… Then you have to make space.’ By taking her in, Liss provides Sally with that space but it doesn’t come without personal risk.
We learn that Liss too has been damaged by experiences in her past and discovering her story begins to dominate both Sally’s and the reader’s thoughts. I liked that we see a kind of role reversal with Sally becoming the one to provide support and encouragement. One particular scene that sticks in my mind is when Liss and Sally visit the pear orchard originally laid out in rigid lines by Liss’s controlling father. It’s a place Liss has avoided because of the memories it evokes but Sally’s take on the now overgrown orchard is quite different: ‘It’s like a punishment for trying to force growing things into a mould’. Both Sally and Liss have battled to gain control over their lives from those who want to forge them into a particular shape. Indeed, they have both at some point felt themselves caught in the ‘wrong’ lives, lashing out in anger as a result.
Although there is darkness in the book, there is also a sense of hope inspired by the cycle of nature. ‘The seed was already in the ground. Even when everything looked empty and picked and finished.’ The book’s title brilliantly conveys the process of emerging from darkness into light.
Tasting Sunlight is a beautiful story of friendship, resilience and the healing power of nature.
In three words: Intimate, insightful, poignant
Try something similar: The Offing by Benjamin Myers
About the Author
Ewald Arenz was born in Nürnberg in 1965, studied English and American literature and history and now works as a teacher at a grammar school. His novels and plays have received numerous awards. Tasting Sunlight was shortlisted for the German Independent Booksellers’ Favourite Novel of 2019 and was on the Spiegel bestseller lists both as a hardback and paperback. Ewald lives with him family near Fürth.