Book reviews: Ways of Going Home and The Taste of Apple Seeds

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Ways of Going Home, by Alejandro Zambra

Published by Granta

Mary Ann Pickford

Rising through the ranks of Latin American literature is Alejandro Zambra, a writer from Chile who has won over critics with his captivating work. His award-winning first book, Bonsai, has been praised for its stylish and deeply moving prose. His latest novel, Ways of Going Home, is no different.

Translated into English by Megan McDowell, the story’s backdrop is 1980s Chile during dictator Pinochet’s regime.

Our boy narrator sets the tone from the get-go with his naive, almost humorous account of a major Santiago earthquake, made even more charming by Zambra’s poetic touch.

But it is this event that has a huge impact on the boy’s life – it is where he meets and later falls in love with Claudia.

In the latter part of the book as a grown man trying to revive his marriage, Claudia returns to the neighbourhood and soon his world is rocked to its core.

Thought-provoking and inspiring, Ways of Going Home also echoes some of the author’s own nostalgia of growing up during that turbulent time.

The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena

Atlantic Books

Abi Jackson

When her grandmother dies, Iris returns to the small German town in which she spent her childhood for the funeral.

She learns that her grandmother, who’d slowly wilted with dementia in her later years, has left Iris the family home in her will.

Surprised, and unsure what to do, Iris decides to take a few days off work, which she spends mostly in the house, revisiting her childhood haunts and memories – both warm and bitter.

Over the course of the week, she realises that it’s not only her own recollections, secrets and experiences wrapped up in the familiar walls and floorboards and the apple trees outside, but those of her relatives too.

Through her musings and discoveries, Iris reveals the untimely death that shocked the family to its core when 
she was a schoolgirl, the hidden romances and dreams, and the rifts and bonds that shaped one family’s journey.

Though Katharina Hagena has a background in literature and has previously published books on the subject, The Taste of Apple Seeds is her first novel.

It’s already an international best-seller and it’s easy 
to see why. Hagena’s sensitivity and attention to detail, and a narrator whose honesty and comical clumsiness keep the story light and engaging have universal appeal.

The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena is published in paperback by Atlantic Books, priced £12.99. Available now.