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.
Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…
I absolutely love Orenda books and find there is no one better at introducing me to a wide range of translated fiction as well as having an uncanny knack at making sure that I’m reading amazing debut fiction that really keeps me on my reading toes – so when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours asked me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for Tasting Sunlight I absolutely bit her hand off. I find that introducing a steady flow of translated fiction to my TBR really can be a palate cleanser and I love being introduced to writers I might never have discovered through her blog tours!
Although I was totally absorbed in the story in Tasting Sunlight , it is undoubtedly the beauty of Ewald Arenz’s writing that makes it such a treat to read, particularly in the way he brings the natural world to life through his pages. The story of Sallly and Liss is so perfectly realised that it was hard at times to remember that they are fictional characters rather than real people whose lives had become entwined with mine.
Liss is one of those rare characters that you connect with utterly as the story unfolds, despite the fact that she seems so ‘closed’ at the beginning of the book. The fact that she has had to endure her own struggles mean that she does not trust easily, so she’s not an easy character to get to know. The setting of Liss’ farm was painted so poetically that I could imagine myself there, and see these two characters start to open up to each other and let their barriers down, despite everything they’ve had to endure. They really came alive for me and my heart broke for them both, due to all of the things that they’ve had to put up with and the impact of these traumatic experiences on their ability to open up and trust another human being.
Sally is never presented as just the sum of her experiences either, I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we connect so strongly with her across the novel, despite the fact that she can be so black and white about life, because of everything she’s had to overcome. Her relationship with Liss is convincingly and movingly depicted and full of tiny human interactions that definitely makes it feel like you are getting an insight into a very real relationship. Liss’s quiet sense of decency and protective side are really brought out through the way that she provides a stable and calm space for Sally that gives them both a chance to consider that humanity might be a lot less grim than they have both been accustomed to believing.
What I loved about this book was that we get to see that wise words don’t always come from the most talkative and outgoing people and that justice isn’t always even-handed in the way that it provides for people – what they deserve and what they get is sometimes farther apart than we could ever imagine. Be warned – at several places this book is definitely going to break your heart. It deals with difficult subject matter in a highly sensitive and nuanced way and even though it raises matters such as eating disorders, abuse, and coercive control, it does so in a sensitive and emotionally intelligent way that gives you the space to navigate through these difficult experiences and see the hope that begins to emerge for both of their futures.
You will definitely find it hard to put this book down once you get immersed in it as you’ll be so wrapped up in Sally and Liss’s lives you’ll need to keep reading and find out how their relationship allows them both to change. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m desperate to hear from my friends that I’ve recommended Tasting Sunlight to, as they are definitely in for an absolute treat.
I recommend this beautifully translated and emotionally resonant novel to people who really like to get their teeth into a story that makes you live alongside these characters and see the impact of their life experiences in vivid technicolour. I loved the deft characterisation as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending it to friends of mine who I know will adore this amazing debut. I know that it’s only June but this incredible read is a guaranteed contender for my ‘Best of 2022’ list already.
You need to buy this book, that is my Summer reading advice for you – use these longer nights profitably and treat yourself to an absolutely amazing read that shows how redemption can come in very unexpected ways when we least expect it. Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and also to the wonderful translation from Rachel Ward, which brought this story to life beautifully, All I can do now is count down to Ewald Arenz’s next book, but I know one thing, Tasting Sunlight will take some beating, that much is for sure…
Praise for this stunning debut
‘Written with beautiful simplicity, this sensitive and profound story examines how we heal and help each other, delivered with deep insight and huge heart’ Doug Johnstone
‘A truly special book. Powerful, lyrical and profoundly affecting, Ewald Arenz spins a tale of friendship, restoration and possibility, with utmost heart and care. I loved it!’ Miranda Dickinson
‘An exquisitely written, heart-warming story … the smells, tastes, sounds and rhythms of nature are described with sensuous clarity, so you feel as if you are there, picking potatoes from the earth, tending the bees, and tasting the pears. Just beautiful!’ Gill Paul
‘Told with honesty and a clear-sighted understanding of human nature … I loved it’ Michael J. Malone
‘The simple minutiae of everyday life becomes intricate and essential: rituals that connect one woman to the land and her heritage, and show a lost, younger one a different truth. Moving and heart-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting’ Carol Lovekin
‘Breathtakingly beautiful’ Louise Beech
‘A simply wonderful, heartwarming read…’ Fiona Sharp, Bookseller
Writer On The Shelf
Ewald Arenz, born in Nürnberg in 1965, studied English and American literature and history.
He is a teacher at a secondary school in Nürnberg.
His novels and plays have received many awards.
Ewald lives near Fürth with his family.
Rachel Ward is a freelance translator of literary and creative texts from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study modern languages at the University of East Anglia.
She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saaebrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002.
Her published translations include Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel, and she is a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.