The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth was a dreary and depressing read. I expected to love it because Forsyth’s other book, Bitter Greens, is one of my all time favorites but this one simply doesn’t compare. Bitter Greens blends historical fiction and fantasy together into a beautiful story. I assumed The Wild Girl would be the same but… it was not. This review will have spoilers.
Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.
Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.
It is a time of war, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as Hansel and Gretel, The Frog King and Six Swans. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.
I thought this book was going to be a romantic, fairytale-esque story about the life of Wilhelm Grimm. Unfortunately, it was depressing with little joy, no romance and graphic sexual abuse. In Bitter Greens, there were some dark, and even disturbing, things that happened to the characters BUT that just made the story seem like one of the old, original fairytales. The original fairytales usually weren’t all sunshine and happy endings. Bitter Greens balanced out the darker elements, though, with tons of happiness and romance. The Wild Girl, however, is not a balanced story. It’s nothing but one horrible event after another.
Along with being a depressing read, this book was unforgivably boring. Forsyth included many real historical events and facts, which I would usually appreciate, but it was just too much. I would say half of this giant, 538 page book is spent talking about the war and Napoleon Bonaparte. If I wanted to read about Napoleon, I would’ve picked up another book. It started to seem like filler and a way to make this book unnecessarily longer.
I also didn’t like any of the characters. I found Wilhelm to be weak and boring. I did like Dortchen but her character became less interesting as the story went on. By the end of this massive tome, I no longer cared if they ended up together or not. Speaking of, we never get to see them together as a true couple and so there’s really no romance in this book. It’s a lot of buildup that leads to nowhere. All of the other characters were either awful, annoying or forgettable.
I find it so odd that I can have such different opinions about two books from the same author. If I would have read The Wild Girl before Bitter Greens, I probably wouldn’t have picked up anything else from Kate Forsyth. I would read more from her in the future, though, because I KNOW she can write amazing stories. Anyways, I’d love to know your thoughts on this book. Thanks for reading and have a great day!