Friday, February 7, 2014

The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena Already International Bestseller...Now in U.S.!

Where should we sit? On the steps outside the house, below the rose bush? Not festive enough, and it was visible from the road. On the terrace under the willow? Given what I wanted to talk to him about, the former conservatory was not the right place. In the copse? Too dark, too many spiky branches. In the chicken shed? Too poky, and anyway it would still smell of paint. In the orchard? In the middle of the lawn in front of the house? Or maybe inside?
I decided on under the apple trees behind the house. The grass was too tall, but there was plenty of garden furniture around to put things on. And behind the orchard the wide pastures began. I went into the barn and fetched Hinnerk's scythe. Why shouldn't I be able to do it, too? I tried to remember how my grandfather had wielded the scythe as he made his way easily and slowly through the falling blades of grass. But what had looked so easy was actually very arduous, and the heat didn't help things. Bravely I cut a rather uneven patch beside the large Boskoop tree in which Bertha and Anna had once had their hideaway. It looked less as if someone had tried to prepare a pleasant spot for a picnic and more like the site of a fight. It was, in fact, and the scythe had won. I hung the blunt tool back in its place. Only blankets would help now. I went upstairs, rummaged through the chests, and found a large patchwork rug, several course woolen blankets, and a golden-brown brocade curtain. I hauled them down the stairs as if they were the skins of animals I'd slain, dragged them through the barn and into the meadow at the back.
Those dower chests were wonderful. I went back and fetched a white broderic anglaise tablecloth. As I walked down the stairs again my gaze fixed on the bookshelf. The spines of the books were looking at me. I stopped. There wasn't any system; things just happened and sometimes the arrangement worked.

"Memory would be of no use to us if it were strictly truthful." --Paul Valery

The Taste of Apple Seeds
By Katharina Hagena

Starting a drama revolving around a family will normally contain much that will touch readers personally. I am sure this will be the case if you follow the more than one million readers that have already enjoyed this novel. The author lives in Hamburg, Germany, where the setting also takes place. There were a couple of connections for me, but the family story as told and experienced by Iris, the young grandchild, will pull you in with the smells of the fields of apples, currant bushes, et. al., along with the fresh country air that seems to reach out as you read more and more...

My memories include fresh, delicious apples and pears picked from the trees, or picked up from the ground, just as Iris remembered. She had always loved visiting her grandmother Bertha; still, she was surprised, along with the rest of the family, that her grandmother's house came to her, with only the properties being divided among her three girls... She would have felt better if the house had gone, first, to her mother, and then be passed on to her. Bertha had made her own decisions, instead. I remember that a close sister of my mother had left her inheritance to Mom's four children. She lived with me and I learned of the hurt she felt for not having had it come to her first, which is what she had understood would happen.

So many secrets come out at the death of a family member, don't they? Or, if not, they continue to fester and affect those who are left. Just by being the new home-place owner, Iris was to learn much of what had happened in the lives of her relatives...

Before her memory went completely, Bertha
remembered us in her will. My mother, Christa,
inherited the land, Aunt Inga the stocks and
shares, Aunt Harriet the money. I, the final
descendant, inherited the house. The jewelry and
furniture, the linen and the silver were to be
divided up between my mother and aunts.
Bertha's will was as clear as spring water--and
just as sobering. The stocks and shares were
not particularly valuable, nobody except cows
wanted to live on the pasture of the north German
lowlands, there wasn't much money left, and the
house was old.
Bertha must have remembered how
much I used to love the house. But
we didn't find out about her will
until after the funeral. I went on my
own; it was a long, circuitous trip
involving a number of trains. I set off
from Freiburg and had to travel the
entire length of the country until finally,
right up in the village of Bootshaven at
the stop opposite my grandmother's
house, I got off a bus...I was worn down
by the journey, the grieving, and the
feelings of guilt you always have when
someone dies whom you loved but
didn't know very well.
Bertha had been the dominant leader in the home, while her husband spent most of the time in his office...But one day while picking apples, she had fallen and like many women, immediately got up, 
brushed herself off and
went on working.

But soon they were thinking that was when she started. First, forgetting little things. Her husband had little
tolerance for what could be happening and still depended upon her. After he had died, Inga and Harriet spent most of the time taking care of Bertha and had come to resent Christa, just because she was married and away from the area, did not take her turn.
Finally they had to place her in a care home since she had no memory left of her family or home...
Afterward, everyone went to the cafe beside the cemetery
to eat... As always happens after funerals, the mourners
all started talking at once, first in a murmur, then
gradually more loudly. The three admirers were now
standing around Aunt Inga, their legs wide apart and their
backs very straight. It seemed as if Aunt Inga had been
expecting them to pay homage, but at the same time she
accepted it with gentle irony...
When we left the cafe it was still warm. Herr Lexow
fastened metal clips around the bottoms of his trouser
legs and climbed onto a black bicycle that was leaning
unlocked against a wall. He raised his hand briefly and
rode off toward the cemetery. My parents and aunts
stayed by the entrance to the case, squinting in the
evening sun.

My father cleared his throat. "Those gentlemen from
the law firm--you saw them. Bertha left a will."
So they were the lawyers. My father wasn't finished;
he opened his mouth to speak again, but paused. The
three sisters continued to look at the red sun and
said nothing.
"They're waiting at the house."
What readers experience is not so much the family itself, but rather the memories that death evokes, often not the happy, but the sad or angry ones...

It was Iris, though, that spent the time going through the house, remembering her childhood times, her friends, and when her cousin, Harriet's daughter, died...

Rosmary and Myra had been her best friends, even though she was younger and was always brought into exactly what was happening. Now, Rosmary was dead, Myra was far away and only Myra's younger brother, who was a year younger than Iris, was still in town...

And now her lawyer... And soon she found that he was no longer the little wimp, the pest that had hung around with the girls...

Now, because Iris had thought her trip would be short, she "dressed up" in her aunts gowns and you will enjoy the fun she gets into with them!

You must understand that some of what you read will not be complete. You can look back, as Iris did, but you really can't be sure. The secret of Rosemary's death for instance... What exactly happened? Was it truly accidental?

And did her grandmother really have an affair? Or was it just the ramblings of an old man who had taken care of the house while nobody else had visited for years...

But even then, does it matter? Can memories only be true for the one that was involved? Or maybe not even for them? Was Bertha already losing her memory when Herr Lexow had visited?

What is memorable is the story, the way Katharina Hagena brings it all alive for readers--tempting you, forcing you to relive the parts of your own life that had similar results or feelings. Walk with Iris through her first home, if she decided to stay, as she picks up items that were important or wonders who kept changing the order of the books...and why? I remember I dreamed several times about having my grandmother's house come to me, or in another scenario, I would buy it from the estate. I would walk through the house in my mind and see the threadbare carpeting, the cupboard where the cookies were always waiting for me to sneak, and the fear of wearing red out into the fields where the animals were, having been told they would attack me... Why do some places hold good memories, and even the bad ones and you want to stay there and have those feelings for yourself that must have once been felt by your ancestors? Hagena pulls you in with her fluency of thought, with her search for love, now lost...but, also, for a love, now found???

Let your emotions come, your tears, warm thoughts, or the mystery and wonderment that unknown answers to secrets bring to you... Read The Taste of Apple Seeds... You know, I never in my life even thought of chewing on the seeds! Have you? Well, Katharine Hagena gives us much to chew on in her second novel! Find your past again, while experiencing the literary magic Hagena presents.


Katharina Hagena is the author of On Sleep and Disappearing. She lives in Hamburg, Germany. Her second novel, Apple Seeds is available now at Amazon BandN iTunesIndieBound

Or try to win a copy at

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