#BlogTour #BookReview Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz, trans. by Rachel Ward

Tasting Sunlight Blog Tour BannerWelcome 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.

Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Monika at Monika Reads and over on Instagram Stacey Hammond.

Tasting SunlightAbout 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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My Review

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 similarThe Offing by Benjamin Myers

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Ewald ArenzAbout 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.

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Tasting Sunlight Graphic 4

#BlogTour #BookReview The Companion by Lesley Thomson @AriesFiction

The Companion blog tour FINALWelcome to the final day of the blog tour for The Companion by Lesley Thomson. My thanks to Sophie at Ransom PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Head of Zeus for my review copy.

The CompanionAbout the Book

James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys’ day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son’s attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns.

But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.

DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core..What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats..Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.

But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets…

Format: Hardback (400 pages)    Publisher: Aries
Publication date: 9th June 2022 Genre: Crime

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My Review

In the Acknowledgments, Lesley Thomson writes that she loves to curl up with a country-house murder mystery and so, following her own advice to her creative writing students that they write the book they’d like to read themselves, she decided to write her own version of a country-house murder mystery.

The book features a diverse cast of characters to whom the reader is introduced in short order, much in the manner of the beginning of an Agatha Christie novel such as Death on the Nile or Murder on the Orient Express. Christie fans will take pleasure in spotting a few subtle references to her novels, such as the choice of Blacklock as the name of the mansion around which much of the action centres. There are also the tried and tested elements of a classic crime novel such as a gathering of all the suspects towards the end of the book (in the library, no less). Given Elly Griffiths’ cover quote describing the book as ‘like the best of Barbara Vine and Agatha Christie’, I also loved that one of the characters (whose first name is Barbara) has a cat named Rendell.

The police procedural elements of the book are very much of the here and now, as are some of the social issues explored in the book: the proliferation of social media, loneliness, drug dependency and the targeting of the elderly and vulnerable.  You didn’t get characters in an Agatha Christie novel posting selfies on Facebook or possessing a burner phone!

When it comes to crafting the plot of a murder mystery the author knows her stuff, laying false trails, slipping in red herrings and generally leading readers up the garden path so that, like me, you’ll probably have suspected just about everyone of being the culprit by the end of the book – even Molly the owl.  I wasn’t completely sure a killer who includes children amongst their victims quite fitted with the kind of crime you associate with an Agatha Christie novel, but then of course we’re in the present day, not the 1920s and 1930s.

The Companion is a neat homage to the classic country-house murder mystery but brought bang up to date.

In three words: Intriguing, clever, absorbing

Try something similar: Snow by John Banville

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Lesley_ThomsonAbout the Author

Lesley Thomson grew up in West London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won The People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and the resulting series has sold over 850,000 copies. Lesley divides her time between Sussex and Gloucestershire. She lives with her partner and her dog.

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