Author: Katharina Hagena
Genre: Fiction / Literature
My Copy: ARC courtesy of William Morrow
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: An international bestseller, The Taste of Apple Seeds is a story of love and loss that will captivate your heart.
When Iris unexpectedly inherits her grandmother’s house in the country, she also inherits the painful memories that live there.
Iris gives herself a one-week stay at the old house, after which she’ll make a decision: keep it, or sell it. The choice is not so simple, though, for her grandmother’s cottage is an enchanting place where currant jam tastes of tears, sparks fly from fingertips, love’s embrace makes apple trees blossom, and the darkest family secrets never stay buried.
As Iris moves in and out of the flicker between remembrance and forgetting, she chances upon a forgotten childhood friend who could become more.
The Taste of Apple Seeds is a bittersweet story of heartbreak and hope passed down through the generations.
Originally published in German, Katharina Hagena’s The Taste of Apple of Seeds is a beautiful coming of age story where the secrets of the past are revealed and one woman grapples with what could have been.
As for characterization, Hagena does a great job introducing us to a wide array of characters who play a vital role. Our primary character is Iris and she inherits a house she doesn’t want. Iris is very quiet and innocent. During her childhood flashbacks, we get to experience her naivety and her attempt to seem worldly to her friends. I liked getting to know Iris and hated the position she was put in. We then have Max who Iris calls the wimp and he’s a bit withdrawn, but as the story progresses we get to know him. I only wish we had more scenes with Max, but I understand why Hagena uses him the way she does and it is very effective. The most interesting character is Herr Lexow who is a neighbor and has an important secret to share. I won’t go into detail what it is or who it is about because it would spoil the story. The other characters are vital to the plot, but in the end up being secondary characters. These include sisters Anna and Bertha, Inga, Iris’ mother, Rosemary, and Mira.
Narration is first person told through Iris and while I want to say she’s a trustworthy narrator, she’s not. The reason I say this is because even she doesn’t know what to make of what she uncovers and everything she tells us is from memory or what she’s been told. Despite this, it’s easy to fall into step with Iris and experience the beauty of Hagena’s world. The sights and sound of the countryside come to life and it feels as if we are there with Iris. If I can take a moment to discuss Hagena’s writing, it’s beautiful! I have to give major props to Jaime Bulloch who did a superb job with the translation. Others have made note of it and I agree with their assessment that Hagena’s writing becomes vivid when she’s writing about sexual desire and there are some beautiful lyrical passages on this subject alone.
I debated with the rating between a three and four and in the end decided on a four for two primary reasons. The first has to do with the prose and I adored Hagena’s descriptions. While it’s not a perfect translation, it is the closest we’ll get to the original unless one knows German. Alas, my German is rusty and I couldn’t help but feel how much I wished this book had been written while I took German because it would have been lovely to get lost in. Secondly, this book makes me think of the past. Here Iris is forced to revisit a past event that is tied to the women in her family. Reluctantly she comes to terms with what happened and the possibility of what could have been. How many times have we been in those shoes? What she doesn’t realize is the past shaped who she is and ultimately the women in her family.
If you’re a fan of books with a bit of magical realism then you’ll really enjoy Katharina Hagena’s The Taste of Apple Seeds. Hagena is an author to watch for and I can’t wait see what she writes next. You can read an excerpt here.