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Sweet Fruit, Sour Land

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  179 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Winner of the Not the Booker Prize 2018

Shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize 2019

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.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 19th 2018 by Sandstone Press
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  179 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Gumble's Yard
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, 2018-ntb
Now winner of the 2018 Guardian Not The Booker shortlist for which I was delighted to have been picked as a judge.

Of all the hardest things to lose in the world, amongst all the food turned to dust, all the people you loved a memory, all the landscape you knew as well as your own body turned to mulch, hope was the hardest to lose of all.

This compelling and quietly beautiful is published by the Ross-shire based small publishers Sandstone press who “are an independent publisher with an inte/>
Stephen Selbst
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sweet Fruit, Sour Land is set in a post-apocalypse UK where catastrophic climate change has all but eliminated electricity and led to persistent food shortages. Almost all technology dependent on electricity has been abandoned. The government is led by a shadowy Mrs P who is long on slogans, but whose government apparently cannot alleviate the misery. To repopulate, young women are required to bear at least one child.
Mathilde, a refugee from France, lives with her grandmother. The women su
Alice Hamilton-Cox
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sandstone, favorites
Rebecca Ley has such a magnificent way with words - which has left me almost speechless about this book.

Upon finishing it, I realised that I wanted to start all over again immediately, and get lost in its pages once more.

It has become one of my all time favourites.

I would highly recommend.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was only 130 pages into this book last night, but I stayed up past midnight just to finish it - it was just that good. THIS is how you write a debut. Beautiful, powerful writing, wonderful characters, a well-paced story that was emotive and evocative. I don't know that this will win the Booker (I think Everything Under might take it), but it's definitely worthy if it does.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful prose, easy to read but deeply moving. Interesting female characters and fascinating world. Gorgeous.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book- a remarkable debut. Utterly absorbing and addictive yet subtle. Rebecca's prose is beautiful, elegant and spare (v reminiscent of 'The Road'). I loved the heart and hope within this novel as well as the desperation and distress; friendship and resilience are strong core to the novel which are juxtaposed gracefully with the topical issues throughout. Highly recommend and a bold new voice to pay attention to.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think a book could keep punching you in the stomach but I was wrong.
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another dystopia, but one which could very soon be true. That's what made this story so effective ; I would be reading, and appreciating it as a good, well written story, and then it would hit me ; this can happen, and in my lifetime. It is not so far-fetched, and elements of the plot are happening to us now. An excellent read.
Octavia Cade
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Caveat: I got a copy of this book free from the publishers because I'm reviewing it for Strange Horizons. The full review will be appearing there soon, so this is only a few short comments for my own record. The gist of which is: I love this book, it's outstanding. I tend to like post-apocalyptic narratives anyway, but if there's a flaw to that particular sub-genre it's that it often wallows in melodrama. My preferred explorations of post-apocalyptic stories tend to be the quiet ones - the ones that have ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
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.

Find out more by checking out my full review here:
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what to say about this book.
The writing didn't grip me, the characters didn't excite me, the plot was there and the changes in perspectives and voices helped to draw it out...but it wasn't a wholly different take on a dystopian vision of the future of the world.

All that said, I find it still this book in my mind, I'm still thinking about the peaches and fruits and the bonds between people and families and love. So, it's a 3.5 stars from me.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A haunting dystopia that I really enjoyed reading. It follows two very different women and their child in post-'blackout' Britain. The energy has run out, electricity and food are rationed and most people survive on oatmeal while the privileged few still hold lavish parties in the ruins of London.

I was drawn to both main characters, one speaking in the past, one in the present, and the elegantly and beautifully written story about family, loss and survival.
Polly Baker
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I made slow and stilted progress with this book. I am often impatient with dual narratives, add a non-linear structure to that and I need a lot of enticing to complete the jigsaw. And I didn't find enough intrigue with this world and its characters.
It seemed rather than producing a dystopian future, I had been served up the past. Where the world was harshly divided by rich and poor, powerful and powerless, the glutinous and the hungry. There was something of the Regency Romance in it at the sta
Peter Baran
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-harder-2019
Read Harder 2019 - A Book with less than 100 reviews on Good Read (92 ratings, 21 reviews - 22 now)

A love story set in a dystopian climate ravaged future, which plays its setting as close to its chest as possible as - you know its not science fiction but literary fiction innit. The problem was I was more interested in the sit, and the tiny facts parcelled out never quite added up to the oatmeal only future. There are parallel stories, the London set part is about corruption, and the
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sweet Fruit, Sour Land is the story of two women living in a starving, totalitarian Britain. It addresses gender and cultural identity in the context of a government insistent that they have children as soon as possible – a stricture placed firmly on the shoulder of the women. Lush depictions of foreign countries and foods neither had seen for years evoke a sharp sense of longing and regret for all that has been lost, while the harsh realities of daily life are delivered unflinchingly. Ley’s pro ...more
Kate Page
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This didn’t work for me. There are patches of writing, and story, that I enjoyed, but the whole just didn’t hang together. The dystopian world in which it is set is very loosely sketched in, which in itself might not be a problem, except it all seemed a bit random and unconvincing. The narration is split between Jaminder and Matilda, and is very much an internal monologue. It also moves between different times, so you are often working out which point in the timeline you are presently in. This d ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
fuckinghell that was entirely too depressing. not the plot, not what happens, not the setting, i mean the book. its beautiful but bleak, and i find bleakness affects me in a way direct horror often does not. i didn't even register it in my brain as being the book that's affecting me (last year, it took me two days to realise my sudden depression had been caused entirely by My year of rest and relaxation), but it is. i might be too permeable for this book, because despite the fact it's well writt ...more
Least Torque
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful novel of the intense feelings of loss and guilt associated with family and friendship and parenting and eating and formerly meaningful but now meaningless rituals in dystopian times. What struck me so hard was how intensely evocative the book was of losses and guilt I’m already feeling in daily life due to the already present impacts of climate change and the need to help forestall what is likely to come — and this before the most serious shit has even hit the fan. This book communica ...more
Laura Wilcox
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really struggled to get through this book and had to force myself to finish it. It is SO DULL. The dystopia is pretty much a hybrid of every other dystopia I’ve ever read but with all the exciting or interesting bits taken out. I couldn’t bear the never ending internal monologues, I had to skip through some paragraphs because they made me cringe.

I feel like the author was trying desperately to make every bit of speech or thought drip with poignancy or symbolism but unfortunately she never qui
Sarah Tinsley
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An achingly touching portrayal of the way relationships endure in times of crisis. Her dystopian world is a chilling reminder of how delicate the planet and its resources are, and how very different our lives would be if we advanced just a little further down the road of climate change. From touching descriptions of the lost food we used to savour (have a snack with you) to disturbing vistas of recognisable places changed beyond redemption, this novel is at once bleak and hopeful. A brilliant ba ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5/4 for me.

I enjoyed the premise and the development of the storyline. The pace is perhaps the one thing that put me off approximately 3/4 of the way through the book but I pushed through it. Something about the pace is reminiscent of the sluggishness and atemporality I imagined the characters experiencing because of their constant hunger and malnourishment. It is an interesting first work and I would pick up the author's next creation. There is much promise in the story and the wa
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe I've read too much post-apocalyptic fiction, but it felt like a bit like a "greatest hits" of dystopian futures, with its world of environmental collapse, and reproductive restrictions. I think it retreads very (too?) closely some other works. But I really did like the views on how much of yourself is based on your culture, and what do you do when that culture is no longer there?
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I was a bit disappointed with this book, given the glowing reviews and it making the shortlist for the Guardian not the Booker, where I got the title from. I found it a bit flat, I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters and little details of the story I thought stretched credulity, even in their dystopic world. Great title though.
Clive Millard
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Uninvolving for me and got bored. Stopped reading after 3/4 of the way through.
Molly Raycraft
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book so much I couldn't put it down. A really poignant story of friendship with many unpredictable moments. Well worth a read.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
not at all like the usual postapocalyptic genre; friendship memory and pleasure
Mrs J R Harrison
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this - a sign of what our world could become!!
Zuzu Burford
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-authors
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben warden
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. Absorbing plot. Didnt resolve or pick- up as I was hoping
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sweet Fruit Sour Land by Rebecca Ley is stunning debut novel that evokes the hunger and hardship of a dystopian near future. The world has become a harsh and unforgiving place with a UK government putting in place bizarre policies and the elite feasting on black market food while everyone else struggles to survive. It is a story that sounds a warning bell for the future, but at its core it is about love, friendship, family and the simple pleasure of peeling a lemon. I’m recommending this book to ...more
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