I can’t believe it but I have read TWO five star books in a row; last week it was Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. If you have followed my book reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that I don’t give out five star ratings often. Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth would be a ten star book if I could rate it that, however. I DEVOURED this story. It’s a beautiful fairytale retelling in a historical setting… my favorite. This review will have slight poilers.
I like to give a heat level rating for all books with romance. If you’re curious about my rating system, you can check it out here.
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.
- Heat Level-
At its core, this novel is a retelling of “Rapunzel.” Before there was “Rapunzel,” however, there was “Persinette” by Charlotte-Rose de la Force. Charlotte-Rose is also one of the three main characters in this book and with that, Forsyth blends together history and fairytales. Along with Charlotte-Rose, there is Margherita and Selena. The book switches between the three but the story is primarily told from Charlotte-Rose and Margherita’s points of view.
I really loved all three characters but my favorites were Margherita and Selena. Margherita is our Rapunzel while Selena is the wicked witch that keeps her locked away in the tower. I wouldn’t say their stories differed much from the original “Rapunzel” or “Persinette” but Forsyth added a generous amount of grit and darkness.
Speaking of darkness, I do think this book requires a trigger warning for rape and sexual content; primarily in Selena’s story. There weren’t any truly graphic details but you’re definitely told enough to know what’s going on. Selena’s story in general was the saddest, even more so than the girl who was literally locked in a tower. She might be the villain but she had her reasons for becoming one.
While Margherita and Selena’s stories were dark and magical, Charlotte-Rose’s was more typical historical fiction. I really enjoyed her part in the story but I did prefer the more fantasy element of the others. However, both stories do end up connecting in a surprising way and like all good fairytales, this one has a magical happy ending.
Bitter Greens is a beautifully written page turner. It blends together everything I love in a good book from romance to magic to a touch of the macabre. If you like more adult fairytales or historical fiction, please read this book. You won’t regret it. Will you be giving this one a try? Let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!