Sweet fruit, sour land is a dystopian tale of two friends as they meet at lavish parties in London. Both of them are poor, living on food rations and have only been invited due to their skills; Jaminder plays the piano and Mathilde is a skilled seamstress. Both of them are strangers as immigrants to England, but also to this high society. At these parties they are exposed not just to unfamiliar foods and lifestyles, but to a much more sinister realization that the rich people don’t actually know what they’re doing and just consuming as much as possible before the inevitable demise of society.
“We still think just because it could be worse, that’s enough.”
Mathilde narrates the events as they take place in London and Jaminder tells the story of the present, where they have relocated to somewhere in Scotland and are getting by on oatmeal and sewing. It is a pretty classic dystopian story, but it is told in a contemporary, poetic language that creates an intimate, eerie feel. In London the themes are set heavily in the question of what we owe to each other as a society until it inevitably crashes in personal relationships lost or changed. In Scotland, however, it is just Mathilde, Jaminder and their son Hugo and the ways they provide comfort and nurture to each other. Here the more intimate aspects of nurture are explored and the title becomes not just about the food shortage, but about the way people create wonderful things despite dust and fear.
“I still had a strong sense that I was woman second and a human first.”
I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I picked up this book because the main character’s name was spelt exactly like my own, but I started reading it and I couldn’t get it out of my head till it felt like I was living those pages. It is beautifully told and the mystery lies not so much in the plot, which is fairly standard, but in the questions lived between the two women. Every accolade thrown at this book is well deserved and it should be one of the most talked about books this year.
“There is nothing more holy than the power to make something from its individual parts, and give it to someone in a gesture of love.”
CBR10Bingo: So Shiny. Sweet fruit, Sour Land is Rebecca Ley’s debut novel and it was published in 2018.