Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Review: The Taste of Apple Seeds, By Katharina Hagena. Atlantic £12.99

 

Iris isn't sure she really wants to inherit the old house. But it's been left to her by her grandmother, Bertha, so after the old lady's funeral, when her mother and aunts have gone back to their lives, Iris moves in. Temporarily, at least.

This is the house in northern Germany where she spent her summer holidays as a child, playing outdoors with her cousin Rosmarie, and with Mira, a local girl who only wears black, with whom Rosmarie shares an intense friendship. But Iris is a grown-up now, with a job in a university library. Mira has disappeared. Cousin Rosmarie is dead. Only Iris is still here. Living up the road, Mira's brother, Max, now a lawyer, deals with the inheritance.

Before her death, Bertha had sunk into confusion, wandering from her bed, knitting crazy, senseless patterns. Eventually she was put in an old people's home. Now that Bertha is gone, it's Iris's turn to wander. As she does, she reflects on her family and her relationship to this place. Does she want this inheritance? Shouldn't it have gone to her mother or aunts? To ice skater Christa, to hippy translator Harriet, or beautiful Inga, who gives electric shocks to whoever touches her?

These three women, and Rosmarie, Mira and Iris's grandparents – all are constant, almost tangible absences through Katharina Hagena's novel. Iris digs through the family wardrobes, remembering. The recollections she lives through contain small domestic revelations and moments of passion so elemental that even the natural world has to respond. Experiences that can change the colour of the currants in the garden, or make the apples ripen on the tree.

Beautifully phrased, artful and sometimes ingenious, in Jamie Bulloch's English translation, The Taste of Apple Seeds is atmospheric and sensual. With some tasty phrases (and just a few little stylistic indulgences), Hagena ingrains the creaking old house – and the book – with melancholy; every word, every place is weighted with memories, and with forgetting. Forgetting is one of the subjects that Hagena keeps circling. Yes, there's remembrance, for Rosmarie; but memory is unpredictable. Forgetting is more certain.

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices