Book Tour Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Monday, March 11, 2013
Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: historical fiction, retellings, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 495 (hardback edition)
Published: January 2012
Source: HFVBT for review
Rating: 5/5

An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale's first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.
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. 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...

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, sixty-four 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, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.

After Margherita's father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued...

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.

An Easy Quiz To See If Bitter Greens Is For You:

#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?

#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?

#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?

#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?

#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softy, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?

#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?

#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?

#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?

If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.

Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.

All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.

The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.

Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters.  There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.

Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future.

 photo 48a79a2d-f7a9-45d7-94c4-ea9e7f63d1ca_zps792fdb12.jpg

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, February 25
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, February 26
Review at Historical Tapestry & The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Wednesday, February 27
Review at Read Write Reviews

Thursday, February 28
Guest Post at Read Write Reviews

Friday, March 1
Interview at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf

Monday, March 4
Review at One More Page…Diary of a Book Lover

Tuesday, March 5
Guest Post at One More Page…Diary of a Book Lover

Wednesday, March 6
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 7
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, March 8
Review at A Bookish Affair

Monday, March 11
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, March 12
Review at The Little Reader Library

Wednesday, March 13
Review at Tiny Library
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, March 14
Review at The Broke and the Bookish

Friday, March 15
Review at The Worm Hole

Monday, March 18
Review at A Words Worth

Tuesday, March 19
Interview at A Words Worth

Wednesday, March 20
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at Kincavel Korner

Thursday, March 21
Interview at Kincavel Korner

Friday, March 22
Review at The Calico Critic
Interview at Unabridged Chick


  1. Eeee, every word in this review makes me so happy!!!

  2. I've seen nothing but great reviews for this - it sounds really interesting and different. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Lovely review, Jessie! I really need to get my hands on this one. :)

  4. Thank you so much for your brilliant review! You made my night - I'm very happy you loved 'Bitter Greens' so much. And I must say ... your blog is extra pretty!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.