BookBrowse Reviews The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena

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
    Paperback:
    Feb 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Katharina Hagena's international bestseller, The Taste of Apple Seeds, is a story of love and loss that will captivate your heart

Katharina Hagena's The Taste of Apple Seeds is a peculiar little jewel of a book, a lyrical family novel in which a young German woman named Iris inherits her grandmother's house. The story is not a plot-driven cloak-and-dagger mystery, nor is it full of car chases or supernatural villains - the novel is focused primarily on the unspooling of Iris's memories. As she explores the old North German farmhouse after her grandmother's death, she sifts through family lore and revisits the pivotal events of her youth. She is looking for patterns everywhere - in the drawers of her grandfather's desk, in the stones of the terrace floor, and in the order of the books of the shelves. Hagena pulls the reader along with a thread of suspense as fine and tenacious as a cobweb. As Iris's thoughts circle ever closer to the facts of her own life, and in particular the tragedy that befell her cousin Rosemarie when the girls were teenagers, even the most descriptive passages are imbued with urgency.

Hagena's lyricism is richly rewarding. Her account, in Iris's voice, of grandmother Bertha's sliding into dementia is beautiful and sad, and seems piercingly true-to-life. There are touches of magical realism in the family lore too - the red currants out back are reputed to have turned white when an aunt died of pneumonia, and another aunt gives off electrical shocks to whomever she touches. These fanciful elements add to the realistic richness of Iris's memories; their magical features stand in for the emotional resonance of events that deeply imprint the family beyond the scope of one generation. What Iris inherits is more than nostalgia, it is identity - a sense of place in time and history as well as physical space.

A German novel can't range back over the last few generations without bumping into World War II, and The Taste of Apple Seeds is no exception. Iris's grandfather Hinnerk was a Nazi; a by-the-book prison administrator who wrote poetry on the side and helped a Jewish neighbor escape to the West. Hagena plays with this history when Iris gets involved in a comical episode involving some red graffiti and a (literal!) pail of whitewash.

But the real core of the book is its sensuality, the unexpected tastes and sights and sounds that it evokes, like the surprising taste of marzipan in the seeds of a Boskoop apple. When Iris goes to the grocery store, we get her entire mouth-watering list, "I bought some milk, black bread, cheese, a bottle of apple juice, and a large carton of multivitamin buttermilk. As well as a newspaper, a packet of crisps, and a bar of nut chocolate for an emergency." The interiors of the old farmhouse are cluttered and full of aromas, and there are vintage dresses to try on and old jars of jam to bring up from the cellar. Even the words, rendered here in a fine translation by Jamie Bulloch, are sensual. In her regular life, Iris is a librarian, a lover of books who collected words as a child in an effort to satisfy her "craving for magical, animated worlds in sleeping things." While some readers may balk at the quietness of The Taste of Apple Seeds, many will enjoy the flavor of Iris's rich mind. Originally published in German in 2008, the novel became a sleeper hit in Europe, and was made into a movie in 2013.

Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder

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



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. 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!

Beyond the Book:
  A Taste of Northern Germany

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Happiness
    Happiness
    by Heather Harpham
    Of the 53 reviews submitted for Happiness, 49 readers rated it a four- or five-star book for an ...
  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Little Nothing by Marisa Silver

A stunning, provocative new novel from New York Times bestselling author Marisa Silver

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written--a story about sacrifice and motherhood.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I's A D Before D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & 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.