Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth will be one of my favorite books of this year. I loved this book! I’ve had a pretty trying week with my dad in the hospital – we got to bring him home finally yesterday and he’s doing much better. What I want to say though is it’s a pretty special book that can manage to take you away to another place when you have as much going on as I did and I truly welcomed it. This novel is almost 500 pages and it breezed by and when I got close to the end I kept putting it down because I really didn’t want it to be over yet. I have to mention the cover as well as it is so striking and has a black ribbon to mark your place; it really is beautiful. Bitter Greens is a unique story in that it blends historical fiction and the fairy tale of Rapunzel together and I can guarantee that this book will captivate you as Kate Forsyth spins this tale.
Charlotte-Rose de la Force is living the life at the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV but she has gotten herself in more than one scandalous situation and finally the king banishes her to a very strict convent. Charlotte-Rose is used to pretty gowns and men who pay attention to her so life in the convent is a rude awakening for her. She has to give up all she brought with her even her beautiful locks of hair but what hurts her heart the most to lose is her writing paper and quills. Charlotte-Rose has a love of words and there is nothing she likes better than to tell and write stories. She is very miserable at the convent until Sœur Seraphina takes her under her wing and has her help with gardening all the while telling her a story that completely enthralls Charlotte-Rose so much so that she yearns to be able to write it all down. After all the turmoil in Charlotte-Rose’s life will it finally be life in the convent that offers her the peace she needs?
Now the tale that Sœur Seraphina weaves for Charlotte-Rose is a captivating one indeed that tells the story of a young girl named Margherita. It is the late 16th century and it is Margherita’s seventh birthday and she is so excited until she meets a woman who scares her. This woman is Selena. She is a courtesan who has a most beautiful garden full of flowers and herbs that can be seen from Margherita’s attic window; she is also known to be a sorceress. Well years ago when Margherita’s mother was pregnant her only craving was for green things, more specifically greens from Selena’s garden. Her husband only wanting to please and help his wife steals her a bunch of bitter greens from the garden. The penalties for stealing are harsh but Selena gives them an out. She has them promise to give her their daughter when she turns seven years old. They accept thinking that seven years is a long time and anything can happen before then. Everything has a cost though and the time comes when Margherita is taken from them.
Selena has no need for a seven year old and places Margherita in a convent until she is twelve. It is then she takes her to a tower where no one will find her and leaves her there after weaving more and more hair into Margherita’s own hair until it is a long, long rope of flaming red hair. This rope of hair is how Selena gets up to the tower each time she comes to see Margherita. Selena, being a sorceress has many reasons for needing the young Margherita and keeping her prisoner for years. Above all else Selena desires beauty and youth and will do anything to keep it. She has been using witchcraft to get what she wants for years. Will she continue on in her twisted ways or will she finally be stopped?
These three women; seemingly so different and yet their stories will all weave together in the end. The story of all three women alternates from the past to the present and it is so well done that not once did I feel any confusion over whose story it was or what was happening. I can’t even say I had a favorite as I really felt all three of these women were strong characters and each story was interesting on its own but how they all connect together is what makes the story fascinating. Bitter Greens is a beautifully written book that tells a wonderful story. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it especially to those who love fairy tales and historical fiction. It is a fantastic book that brings together elements of desire, obsession, love, and magic; all of which made it the perfect tale for me.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is touring with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours so be sure to check out the rest of the schedule. You can find Kate on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Unfortunately Bitter Greens isn’t readily available in the US or Canada yet but you can find it available from other sellers on Amazon and Amazon Canada. It really is worth the effort!
Note: Kate left a lovely comment for me and also that her novel is available on The Book Depository which I can’t believe I didn’t think of. You can click here to purchase it at The Book Depository which also has free shipping!