Welcome to the third stop on the Bitter Greens Blog. I am super excited and pleased to be hosting Kate Forsyth and her enchating novel over the next two days. Today you will find a 5* review from yours truly and then tomorrow I will have a guest post from Kate. So without further ado, check out my review of this truly breathtaking novel:
Release Date: 25th February 2013
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Synopsis: Bitter Greens is an historical novel for adults which interweaves the Rapunzel fairytale with the true story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a 17th century French writer who wrote the version of the fairytale we know best, while locked away in a convent by the Sun King, Louis XIV, for her bold and unconventional views on love and society.
Charlotte-Rose has scandalized the court by falling passionately in love with a young nobleman, then dressing up as a dancing bear to rescue him from imprisonment. Banished to a strict Benedictine convent by the king, she remembers her life and loves at the magnificent and corrupt court of Versailles. Charlotte-Rose is filled at despair at her imprisonment, but she is comforted by an old nun, the apothicairesse at the convent, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the secret history of a young girl in 16th century Venice, who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens …
Margherita’s parents love her dearly but the penalty for stealing in Venice in the late 16th century is cruel, and so they agree to give up their child at the age of seven to Selena, a courtesan whose walled garden is famous for its herbs and flowers. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Titian, first painted by him in 1513 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-one years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition. Selena is determined to never surrender the power that her beauty gives her, and so she turns to black magic and a spell that requires the blood of a virgin. Yet in the decadent world of Renaissance Italy, where courtesans supped with kings, where convents were hotbeds of illicit love, and where a girl’s virginity was sold many times over, how was Selena to ensure her spell would work, not just once, but over and over again? The only way was to build a tower without door or stairs, deep in the forest … and this is where she locks Margherita at the age of twelve. As Margherita grows into womanhood, she sings in the hope someone will hear her. One day, a young man does and climbs her rope of hair into the tower … and so begins a beautiful love story that retells one of the world’s most mysterious and enduring fairytales.
The story of Margherita’s escape from the tower is interwoven with flashbacks that recount Charlotte-Rose’s tragic childhood and her scandalous life at the Sun King’s glittering court, and also the dark and tragic story of the courtesan Selena and how she came to be Titian’s muse. Three women, three lives, three stories, all braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.
Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is an enchanting retelling of Rapunzel combined with the real tale of Charlotte-Rose De la Force. Bitter Greens is a brilliant novel, I cannot get over how overwhelming and beautifully written this book is. I really wasn’t expecting it and now here I am adding it to the top of my best reads of the year. Not only do we get a historically accurate setting but also some very strong female characters who showed us their strengths in different ways.
Bitter Greens is told from three different points of view. We get the scandalous life of Charlotte-Rose De La Force as she is banished from court and sent to a convent. There she stands out like a sore thumb, nobody cares about court life and hence Charlotte-Rose is a nobody, dressed in a black dress to look like everyone else. We get to see Charlotte rebel against the nuns and her only friend comes in the form of Sœur Seraphina who tells Charlotte the tale of girl who was sold by her parents.
We then get Margherita’s point of view, she’s a young girl who at the age of seven is taken from her parents because of one of their actions before she was born. The pretty red-haired girl is stolen from her parents and locked up in a tower by the witch La Strega Bella, to live out her short life helping La Strega Bella stay young and youthful.
Then we get some chapters from the witch La Strega Bella or also known as Selena. We get to see her past and how she became a witch and what made her twisted outlook on life develop. We see how she becomes infatuated with the thought of eternal youth and would stop at nothing to get it.
All of the female characters were so well developed and we were shown how strength in women appears in different ways. I loved the little flashbacks we got to the character’s past so the reader could learn where and why everything was the way it was. I loved these parts of the novel where we saw the characters innocent before being changed and influenced by the world around them. Their stories were all interwoven brilliantly to create one breath-taking story.
Bitter Greens also has a strong feminist streak throughout the novel, I’m not sure if the author did this on purpose or if the characters just took over. I loved it though. We got to see Charlotte ahead of her times and rebelling against the King. The scene when her mother is arguing with the king also struck a chord with me, she wouldn’t back down to him even when it was a women’s place to. She had her beliefs and she would tell them to him whether he liked it or not. Also Selena the Venetian courtesan who proved to men that women are not the weaker sex and she soon got her revenge on any man that crossed her path. It’s this book that made me want to explore the whole world of feminism more because these strong female characters are so inspirational even in this day and age they are role models. I want to thank the author for making these incredible characters that will stay with me for a long time.
The writing was so beautiful and flowed so well, the reading was effortless and you could tell from the start this was going to be a masterpiece. The historical world was so detailed too and in your mind you could just easily slip into the past and join the crowds. Oh I loved this novel. It was such a delight to read and I could never put it down, I wanted to keep reading even at the end. I am sure I will read more books by the author in the future especially the upcoming The Wild Girl.
About the Author:
Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children ,translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia's Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many 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 Gypsy Crown series of children's historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.
Please visit Kate Forsyth's WEBSITE and BLOG for more information. You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER