French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…
After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.
Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.
My Thoughts: Bitter Greens is one of the most impressive books I have read in a while. I hate to use the word unique to describe it because I don't think it gets at how incredibly awesome and different the story is from anything I've read. Bitter Greens is beautifully written and the author does a wonderful job of weaving together the different stories to create one cohesive and magical tale.
I had never heard of Charlotte-Rose de la Force before reading this book but she is one neat woman. I loved that she does her own thing even if it is unconventional for the time. She is over-flowing with self-confidence but at the same time has a vulnerable side that is very charming. I was rooting for her throughout the whole story. I did feel bad for her in that all of her attempts to marry were thwarted and she wasn't able to have the life she wanted because she was not from a wealthy family.
The re-telling of the Rapunzel tell was stunning. The descriptions of Selena's life in Venice and Margherita's life in the Pieta and then the tower were gorgeous. I know that Selena was kind of the villain but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. I really liked her even though I didn't want to. Margherita was the picture of grace under pressure. She seemed to always be able to keep calm no matter what she was forced to endure. Oh and her hair...it was a little creepy at first but the way Ms. Forsyth described it, the reader could almost see how beautiful it was.
I'm going to stop now because I'm starting to sound like a fan girl but I will say that Bitter Greens is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. 4 stars.
About the Author:
Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.
She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.
Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.
Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.
Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.
Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.
For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
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