All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth

on April 23, 2012

Bitter Greens
Kate Forsyth
Random House AU
2012,  550p
Copy courtesy of the author/publisher

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the Court of Louis XIV after some scandals and perhaps being a bit too cheeky in one of her writings. She has been sent to a nunnery which is non-negotiable and must forsake all of her beautiful gowns, her jewels, all her worldly possessions in fact and take a vow of poverty and chastity. She will be on a trial period until such time as she is ready to genuinely take her vows. Alone in the world with no one to help her, Charlotte is desperate to escape the nunnery. She belongs at Court, it is all she has known for most of her like, employed as a lady in waiting at a young age and having been involved in the raucous goings on ever since. In her misery at being forced into ugly clothes, sleeping in dorm-like accommodation with barely a blanket to ward out the deathly chill and subsisting on gruel, Charlotte is comforted by Sister Seraphina, an older nun who draws her outside to work in the garden. Charlotte is mesmerised as Sister Seraphina begins to tell her a compelling story.

Margherita’s parents made a deal with the devil when her father stole a handful of bitter greens to ease her mother’s craving during the time of her birth. He picked the wrong garden, choosing that of the glamorous courtesan Selena Leonelli and was caught red-handed. Threatened with the loss of his hand, which would devastate them and their small income as he made masks, they are forced to make a bargain – give up their beautiful first born at a time of the courtesan’s choosing. Margherita is spirited away, told her parents no longer want her and all that she finds joy in is singing, her voice beautiful and pure.

Selena has been a force in Venetian society for some time now, defying the passage of time. Originally the muse of an artist, she has developed a wicked way of staying youthful. When Margherita is ready she confines her high up in a tower, visiting her each month and bringing just enough rations to see her through. Margherita’s only hope is that someone hears her high, beautiful singing voice and can attempt to rescue her from the tower. But in the end, she may just have to rescue herself.

Bitter Greens is a fabulously well researched and constructed book, a story within a story within a story! Rich with description and history, the three threads of the book blend together seamlessly, creating such an enjoyable piece of historical fiction. The experience of reading starts with the cover, which is just beautiful. It immediately sends your imagination on a journey and it suits the story immensely and from the beginning you’re drawn in to the story. We start with Charlotte, who has just been exiled from the Court of the Sun King, for being perhaps too scandalous and daring in a Court that made that its routine. She’s been sent to a nunnery and her misery at her predicament is absolute. Only the friendliness of one of the nuns, far more kindly than any of the other strict upholders of the faith, makes the situation bearable for her. Sister Seraphina draws her attention in with the beautifully vivid tale of Rapunzel.

Forsyth creates some wonderful characters here and both Charlotte and the child Margherita, who is taken from her parents are excellent examples of this. But then it is taken that one step further and we get the point of view of a person who had been, up until now, simply the villain of the piece – La Strega Bella, the one who imprisoned Margherita and other girls before her. La Bella Strega is taken from just being a 2D evil character and fleshed out and given life, a background and a character that helps the reader almost sympathise with her, despite all that she has done. We’re told and shown her evil deeds first, before we go back to earlier in her life and the events that have shaped her.

Bitter Greens is just a wonderful story to lose yourself in – it’s quite a big book but the time passes easily as you slip into 1600’s France and 1500’s Venice. It’s the kind of book you should get for a weekend where you can laze around in bed and just immerse yourself within it, without having to put it down for anyone or anything! It’s the sort of novel that has so many elements that it will appeal across the board, to historical fiction fans, fantasy fans, even fans who enjoy a bit of the romance. But ultimately if you like a good story no matter what the particular genre, then this book is definitely for you!

This book is a beautiful mix of the historically true and creative story telling. Charlotte-Rose was a real person and she was the first person to tell the tale of Rapunzel, published as Persinette in 1698 which the Brothers Grimm later adapted in their collection of fairy tales. Forsyth takes this tale and creates an entire web around it to boost and enhance the tale of Rapunzel itself. There’s really nothing more I can say!


Book #58 of 2012

Kate Forsyth did a guest post for me a couple of weeks ago about Venetian Vampires. You can check that out here!

Bitter Greens qualifies for my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. It was the 16th book completed for the challenge.

14 responses to “Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    Lovely review, Bree! I can tell you really enjoyed this and while it’s probably not something I would normally choose to read, I’ll definitely pick up a copy if I see it!

    • To be honest this isn’t something I’d have probably chosen at first glance either! But the plot interested me and I’m so glad I accepted a copy for review. I really enjoyed it – just one of those stories that pulls you right in and you can just lose hours.

  2. This sounds like an amazing book Bree, i’d love to get a copy of this.

  3. Shannon (Giraffe Days) says:

    I’d love to read more Kate Forsyth – I loved her Rhiannon’s Ride trilogy, years ago – but you can’t get her books here. 😦 Someone to catch up on when I get back!

  4. […] Other reviews of Bitter Greens: Karen Brooks, Booktopia, Book’d Out, Kill Your Darlings, Adventures of a Bookonaut, All the Books I Can Read […]

  5. […] Greens. (Random House) Speculative Fiction Angela @ LiteraryMinded, Book’d Out, Bookonaut, Bree @1girl2manybooks, Monique at Write Note Reviews, speculatef, Jo @ […]

  6. […] speculatef, Jo @ BookloverBookReviews, Angela @ LiteraryMinded, Book’d Out, Bookonaut, Bree @1girl2manybooks, Monique at Write Note […]

  7. […] AWW by speculatef, Jo @ BookloverBookReviews, Angela @ LiteraryMinded, Book’d Out, Bookonaut, Bree @1girl2manybooks, Monique at Write Note […]

  8. […] Fiction round-up yesterday. To get a taste of what reviewers are saying about this book head to Bree’s review or Belle’s […]

  9. […] Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth (Random House Australia) — reviews from Sean @ Adventures of a Bookonaut and Bree @ 1girl2manybooks […]

  10. […] AWW by speculatef, Jo @ BookloverBookReviews, Angela @ LiteraryMinded, Book’d Out, Bookonaut, Bree @1girl2manybooks, Monique at Write Note […]

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