Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Taste of Apple Seeds

Title:  The Taste of Apple Seeds
Author:  Katharina Hagena
Publication Information:  William Morrow Paperbacks. 2014. 256 pages.
ISBN:  0062293478 / 978-0062293473

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Everyone must reach a certain point where they have too many memories. So forgetting was just another sort of remembering. ... Forgetting was an ocean which enclosed islands of memory. It had currents, eddies, and depths. Sandbanks would sometimes appear and join up the islands, sometimes the islands would disappear."

The Taste of Apple Seeds begins with a funeral and the memory of another death. Iris has returned to her grandmother's home to attend her grandmother's funeral. After the funeral, she discovers that her inheritance is to be this home, where she spent so much of her childhood.

While coming to terms with the loss and with her inheritance, she travels through her memories of her childhood and of the women in her family:

  • Bertha and her sister Anna
  • Bertha's daughters Inga, Harriet, and Christa
  • Harriet's daughter Rosemarie and Christa's daughter Iris
Surrounding each are the other women, the people they loved, the friends they sometimes left behind, and their secrets.

This book is originally written in German and has been immensely popular in Europe, which led to its translation into English. The fact that it is set in Germany adds interest to the book. Until now, the only books I have read set in Germany have been those set around World War II. It was interesting to read a story of Germany not about the war.

My opinion of this book shifted as I made my way through the book. The beginning of the book is a little slow and hard to get into. I kept looking for the story and for the story to move forward. Yet, the descriptions travelled between the present and the past and between the myriad of characters sometimes without a sense of continuity. I found myself creating a family chart to keep the characters and relationships organized. It took me a while to come to the conclusion that I was looking for the wrong thing. This book is more a portrait than a story.

With that shift in my approach as a reader, I really enjoyed the middle part of the book, taking it for what it appears to be. It is a portrait of a family and of these women. Through Iris's memories, the reader gets a picture of each of these women - as individuals and in their relationships. Although at times it's a challenge to keep the characters separate, the descriptions are beautifully written.

The ending of the book, however, diverts from that portrait approach, and quickly moves through a story. This story is hinted at from the beginning of the book - the reader knows that a young death occurred a long time ago. Throughout the book are hints as to what happened and what impact it left. Yet, when the book finally gets to telling the story, it appears somewhat out of place in the book. From this lovely slowly painted portrait of a family, the book turns to a hastily dramatized tale of a young girl. To me, it is rushed and melodramatic - too much so for the tone of the rest of the book.

I wonder what impact the translation had on this book. What part of the story or the emotion got lost in translation?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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