Sweet Fruit, Sour Land
by Rebecca Ley
In the last circle of luxury in a barren London, government ministers hold glamorous parties. Mathilde and Jaminder, evading hunger and the restrictions on women’s bodies, form an unbreakable bond. But there’s a high price for pleasure and escape is far from easy.
London is barren and we don’t know why, food is rationed and electricity is only available at limited times to those who can afford it. Having escaped disaster in France many years earlier, Mathilde and her grandmother are living each day just trying to get by under the rule of Mrs P.
“‘When all you have left are beans, and then they’re gone, you’ve had it. It can’t get worse. It’s the end of the world.”
Working as dressmakers, their lives change when they are invited to a party being hosted by a glamorous client. Through these parties she’s introduced to a whole new world of tastes, sights and senses and they’re also where she meets government minister George. George shows her foods she’s never known and things she could only dream of, but as their relationship grows stronger Mathilde soon realises that something’s not right between them.
The story that follows is told from two points of view at alternating points in time. It’s a little confusing at times but I think that’s the point. The world that these characters are living in is confusing and full of the unknown. Are they safe? How will they find their next meal? What happens if someone becomes sick?
I really enjoyed Ley’s style of writing and it’s clear that she has a wonderful way with words. The topic she chose to write about was fascinating and it was really interesting to read about a different view of the future with no flying cars, microchips or aliens involved. I was gripped from the start and enjoyed trying to work out what was happening and what was to come.
I actually read this in London, on the tube during a heatwave, so the following quotation really spoke to me at the time, feeling at least some of Mathilde’s daily struggle.
“We ended up back at the tube […], my dress stuck to me, sweat dripping down my legs in the hot wind. I licked my top lip and thought expectantly of soaking myself in cold water when I got home…”
Overall rating: I loved this tale of London in the future and I actually can’t stop thinking about it now I’ve finished. It was so interesting to read something so awful that you actually could see becoming a sad reality. I liked all of the characters and the style of the writing, but it’s the topic that makes “Sweet Fruit, Sour Land” 5 stars for me.
Thank you to Sandstone Press for sending me this pre-release copy.