Source: Review copy
Publication: 23 June 2022 from Orenda Books
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.
Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, 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 want to tell you a bit about the impact of this book on me because it was profound. I have had poor mental health for quite a while now – a combination of personal and physical problems not enhanced at all by world events or this truly dreadful UK government. Anyway, the upshot is that my reading has gone to pot, focus has been hard and I have felt as if I am ‘phoning it in’ as the Americans might say.
I picked up Tasting Sunlight because I wanted something different and the title held a promise that I badly needed.
Gentle reader, Tasting Sunlight is everything it promises to be and more. It is a beautiful, beautiful book. So well written it is immediately and wholly accessible. It is the story of an unlikely relationship between two damaged women, Liss and Sally. Neither woman is big on talking or explanations, so when Sally wanders into Liss’s farm it is Liss’s casual acceptance of her presence that gives Sally the sense that she can safely linger.
Sally is aneroxic and more than that; she is so fed up of the cloying, gentle pressure she gets from her parents, teachers and the medical profession. She is up to her ears in sympathetic conversation and understanding; it is all far, far too much.
Liss is used to living on her own and she has no great need for long, understanding conversations. Both women have their own inner strength and neither is used to relying on anyone else. There is something about Sally that Liss recognises and so she tells her she can stay, if she wants to.
Reading Tasting Sunlight is like applying balm to the soul. Ewald Arenz writes this relationship with depth and sensitivity. It is almost as if you are reading between the lines as this relationship between the women develops into something that is mutual respect and the beginnings of trust.
Ewald Arenz’ language is so sublime it verges on the poetic. The characters are authentic; you feel as if you know both these women and although the book is not a long one, it seems longer because so much of what is between these two is read between the lines.
As the backstories of Liss and Sally are gradually revealed you understand them better and in turn their understanding of the other grows and deepens. Though it seemed from the outset that they have little in common, there are parallels that resonate between them.
Arenz so beautifully describes the tastes, smells and sounds of the farm that the healing beauty of nature is brought to the fore and the pain of these women is assuaged by the very essence of life they are part of. The renewal and growth of nature ensures that nothing stagnates and working on the farm together; seeing how nature does its work is a humbling and a strengthening experience and for both Sally and Liss it is also the beginnings of a healing one.
Tasting Sunlight is a book full of empathy. It takes its time to savour the world around these women and to enjoy the fruits of their labours. It is a beautiful book written without shallowness or trite answers and it touched my soul. I love it so much and have no hesitation at all in recommending it so very highly. It is a glorious, glorious book and it has alleviated a little of the gloom that had descended on me before I picked it up. That is the power of reading a great book! Pre-order it now and I promise you will not regret it.
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.