Der Geschmack von Apfelkernen is a novel by Katharina Hagena [German].
Iris’ grandmother just died and left her the house. Now Iris finds herself in a small village in the middle of nowhere, trying to decide whether she wants that house and all the history that comes with it or whether she wouldn’t rather continue her family’s tradition of forgetting and not talking about things. That her childhood friend Max is there, too, really only confuses things further.
There were a couple of things I didn’t like about this book but altogether it wasn’t bad and I did enjoy reading it.
Hagena has a way of putting “forgetting” as a phenomenon in a beautiful literary context. I loved her passages about the dementia-suffering grandmother, about the family amnesia when it came to their past traumas and Iris’ slow (re)discovery of these things. Those were certainly the books strongest part.
But unfortunately it did have some pretty weak parts as well. Above all the dialogues. On a formalistic basis, Hagena decided not to use quotation marks but rather dashes to signify when people were talking to each other and it wasn’t Iris’ inner monologue. I know that that is something modern authors tend to do a lot and I hate it. It makes the text confusing for me and trips me up again and again. Plus, somehow I always managed to misread the tone of the conversation and was constantly surprised by the answers people give each other. When I thought Iris was practically screaming at Max, he answers teasingly and I discover that she was probably joking? When I was taken aback by the rudeness of what certain characters said (and I don’t give that much about politeness anyway), nobody else in the book seemed to see anything impolite at all.
In short, every time people were talking to each other in the book, I was confused.
The story was rather interesting but it did get absolutely melodramatic really quickly and it got a bit much for me. And while I liked Iris, sometimes she seemed more of a personified quirk than a quirky person.
But even though there were these things I didn’t like, the sum – as usual – is greater than its parts and the book is pretty enjoyable. Though you probably won’t miss much if you don’t read it.