Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Publication Date: September 23, 2014; Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 496 pages
Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings
Publisher's description: ‘Bitter Greens’is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.
A personal perspective:
When I started the book, I was delighted to discover the history of the fairy tale "Rapunzel" and the history of the woman who wrote the current version. Charlotte-Rose de la Force's version of Rapunzel has been handed down from the 17th century.
We could go into many discussions about the meaning of the fairy tale, how it represents the extreme plight of some young women with malicious people in their backgrounds, not to mention their having plain bad luck.
In this novel, I felt that a deeper message or meaning was missing somehow. Many fairy tales are to warn children of the dangers of not obeying parents, of wandering off on their own, trusting total strangers, etc., such as in Hansel and Gretel, Peter and the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears.
In Bitter Greens, bad luck happens when the fictional girl's father is caught stealing a handful of parsley for his starving family and when he has to promise the "bad witch" the life of his daughter when she reached a certain age. Bad luck also happens to the writer of the story, Charlotte-Rose de la Force, who is locked up, so to speak, in a convent for being too outspoken at court. (She spends time writing her stories though freed later on to live a normal life).
The novel could have been shortened from its 496 pages to have more impact, I felt. As it is, I found it hard to get through the entire book to find the message at the very end and also felt that the stories of the fictional Margherita and of the real Charlotte-Rose were too similar in their "bad luck," which made for a depressing read.
I enjoyed the first half of the book and rate it 3 out of 5 overall.
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About the Author
Her recent novel, ‘The Wild Girl’, is the true love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. It was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.
I received an ARC of this book for review.