|Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Read: June 2014
Published: September 23, 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Synopsis: The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love.
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.
*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not affected my opinion ***
You may remember from posts here on the blog, twitter, or YouTube that I have wanted to read this book for a few years. I learned about it when I started watching BookTube videos more seriously and it was a book that sounded fantastic to me. However it wasn't published in the US at the time so I had to wait. Then imagine my surprise when I picked up a copy at BEA, my glorious glorious surprise (there's a whole story if you watch my BEA Book Haul video). I read it almost instantly as part of my retellings month in June but as it is a September release I had to wait until not to review it.
As a fan of Historical Fiction I was blown away at the incredibly interesting and well-researched world that Kate Forsyth created in this novel. The book took place over the course of 200 years in Western Europe and we get to visit the French court of King Louis the XIV, Provence, and even Venice during the Renaissance. It was easy to connect with the characters and immerse yourself in these settings. For those not a fan of the genre, the references were obscure and subtle enough where you won't get overwhelmed in the specifics but History fanatics like me will have some OMG moments while reading. What Forsyth was able to do with the historical setting was establish the scene and a frame of reference that she then brilliantly expanded on with fantasy elements and mystery. The book had just a hint of magic and just enough intrigue to keep me reading till the end. The world was so engrossing that at times I would forget what was real and what was fiction, forcing me into a brutal awakening back into my reality that I had forgotten while reading.
But be warned, this book is not for the faint of heart. Bitter Green is dark, tawdry, and complex. There was more than one scene that made me cringe with it's honesty and brutality. But for me that added to my enjoyment of the book. It was a raw and visceral reading experience. This experience was made even more enjoyable was Kate Forsyth's writing-style. The prose in Bitter Greens was just gorgeous and haunting with a poetic style. It reminded me a little bit of Margaret Atwood's writing in The Handmaid's Tale in that the beauty of the words contrasts with the brutality of the plot points to create a tone of nervousness and unease for the reader.
Have you read Bitter Greens? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading.