The Book of the Month for August is Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley. The winner of the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize 2018, Sweet Fruit, Sour Land is published by the Sandstone Press, a wonderful independent publisher based in Scotland who recently came to more mainstream attention when Celestial Bodies won the 2019 International Man Booker Prize.
Set in a dystopian and famine-hit London, Sweet Fruit, Sour Land tells the story of two women – Mathilde, who has immigrated from an equally barren France and finds herself in higher circles after her grandmother makes a dress for the hostess of one of its many parties, and Jaminder, whom Mathilde meets at one of these parties. When a wealthy client visits Mathilde's dressmaking shop, she finds her life changed as she is drawn into the only surviving circle of luxury left in a barren London. Attending parties offers a welcome escape from life governed by ration cards and a strictly enforced child policy. Here she meets enigmatic government minister, George, and piano-playing Jaminder, with whom an intense friendship blossoms. As their relationship grows stronger, George’s grip on Mathilde tightens, as she tries to discover where the illicit food is coming from, where women disappear to, and what price she must pay to avoid bringing a child into a cruel, ever-changing world.
With its themes of feminism, food scarcity, and environmental exhaustion, Sweet Fruit, Sour Land is a timely reminder in the wake of the current political climate, and while Jaminder’s narrative is at times a little slow, Ley's subject matter undoubtedly makes it an important and thought-provoking novel.
Buy Sweet Fruit, Sour Land here.