Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

bitter greens by kate forsyth

Published: September 23, 2014

Number of pages: 496

Format: hardcover

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Genre: historical, romance, based-on-fairy tale

Audience: older audience for mature sexual content and rape scenes

Rating: 5/5 owl hoots

Summary: 

Charlotte Rose is a French novelist and a member of the royal court until the King banished her after a series of love affairs. She now stays at a convent and befriends Sister Seraphina, a nun who tells her a story from a hundred years ago. About a young girl sold to a sorceress for a handful of bitter greens. After her father steals the bitter greens, Margarita is taken by the courtesan, Selena Leonelli and is trapped in a tall tower with no doors. Selena was a beautiful model for the artist, Tiziano and was the subject for many of his paintings. As Margarita is imprisoned in the tower, she sings hoping that someone will hear her. One day a young man does.

My Review:

Frankly I was doubtful to read this one as I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction. But when I heard that this is both a historical and a retelling of the classic story Rapunzel I wanted to give it a chance. I love reading fairy tales and in the end, this book didn’t disappoint me.

We are told three stories from three women: Charlotte Rose, Selena Leonelli and Margarita. Kate Forsyth does a clever job of interweaving Selena’s and Margarita’s stories together as the tale Rapunzel comes alive in a book that is so think and dense, but worth the read. All women in Renaissance Italy were treated horribly in society including ladies in court. And all three women were treated the same but Charlotte Rose is the feminist out of her time and I admire her courage and wits, and she’s a wonderful storyteller and a writer at heart.

But the one who stood out the most as the best heroine of the story is Margarita. She isn’t the usual damsel in distress (which I dislike in fairy tales). Even as a young girl Margarita learns to survive on her own while trapped in a tall tower with the sorceress/courtesan, Selena. The stories are so richly detailed that I can imagine every moment happening. I love this book for the reimagination of the classic fairy tale and how all three women braid together their stories as we jump from the past to the present without interference.

This isn’t a fluffy fairy tale and I definitely would not recommend it to younger readers. Although patience is required when reading this one as the book is thick and took me awhile to get through. But it was totally worth my time.

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