A Taste of Northern Germany: Background information when reading The Taste of Apple Seeds

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Taste of Apple Seeds

by Katharina Hagena

The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 256 pages
    Feb 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
A Taste of Northern Germany

Print Review

Map of Lower SaxonyKatharina Hagena has set The Taste of Apple Seeds in a rural corner of northwest Germany, in the fictional farming village of Bootshaven. Geographical clues in the novel place Bootshaven in the state of Lower Saxony, in the North German plain region south of Hamburg and north of Bremen. It's a terrain not unlike the low-lying plains of neighboring Holland. The land is flat and fertile, with sand beneath a layer of peaty loam. Hagena calls it a "rain-soaked" place, full of rivers, lakes, canals, locks, and millponds.

Windmill of Jork BorstelbyThe architectural heritage of the region includes a smattering of Dutch-style windmills, one of which makes it into the book as a museum. The historic farmhouses of the region are lovely to look at and have a long pedigree, with half-timbering and thatched roofs in a style that dates back to medieval times. Hagena doesn't specify the age of Iris's house (only that it's "old"), but the kitchen has a stone floor and a door to the barn. Many antique farmhouses have been preserved, some collected in open-air museums like those to the southwest of Bremen, in Walsrode and Hanover.

FarmhouseLower Saxony gets its name from the Saxons, and the local dialect (Low Saxon or Low German – also spoken in the northeastern Netherlands) is a direct descendant of Old Saxon. During the middle ages, the guilds and towns of the region were closely allied with their Northern European trading partners through the Hanseatic league, a confederation of free cities in what is now Northern Germany and surrounding areas; formed in 1241 and ending in 1669. There is also a regional connection to the royal lineage of the United Kingdom – George, Duke of Hanover, became George I of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714 on the death of Queen Anne. Although there were somewhere in the region of 50 relatives closer to Anne than he, he inherited because the rest were Catholics who were prohibited by law from ruling. The Hanoverian line ended with Queen Victoria as, on her marriage to German Prince Albert, it was agreed that their descendants would carry Albert's name - and thus began the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha lineage, who were expediently renamed the House of Windsor during World War I.

Boskoop appleThe Taste of Apple Seeds sticks close to the land, exploring rural meadows and copses and taking dips in the lock. Just south of the Elbe River lies the region of Altes Land, famous for its fruit orchards and its apples in particular. Hagena's farmhouse garden is well stocked with Northern European fruit – currants, gooseberries, elderberries, and black cherries. Red berry pudding with vanilla sauce would be a good thing to make with all that fruit (find the recipe here.) It would go well with the butterkuchen served in the book, a flat buttery cake topped with sugar and sliced almonds. Other regional specialties include kohl und pinkel (a curly kale and sausage salad) and delicate white asparagus. To drink are the indigenous beers, of course, and berry liqueurs. And there are the simple, unadorned apples. The Boskoop (or "Belle de Boskoop") mentioned in the book is an old Dutch variety, a delicious cooking apple and a good keeper. And in case you are wondering, apple seeds do taste like marzipan – and they do not contain arsenic as some believe. It's cyanide (or amygdalin, a cyanide-containing compound). You'd have to eat a prodigious quantity of pips, however, to poison yourself.

Map of Lower Saxony by David Liuzzo.
Windmill of Jork Borstelby Tiefflieger.
Antique Farmhouse courtesy of The Rischmannshof Heath Museum byAxel Hindemith.
Boskoop apple by Jonas.

This article is from the March 5, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...
  • Book Jacket: Five-Carat Soul
    Five-Carat Soul
    by James McBride
    In the short story "Sonny's Blues," from the 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man, African-...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

"A powerful, provocative debut ... Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental." - Kirkus, starred review

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee

    A moving exploration of growing up and growing old, and the ties that bind parents and children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.