by Kate Forsyth
Published: February 25th 2013
(first published January 1st 2012)
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Source: For review
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.
*MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS*
Bitter Greens ended up being a captivating story mixing both fiction and fantasy! This was both a fairytale retelling of Rapunzel and historical fiction revolving around Charlotte-Rose de la Force's scandalous life. Charlotte-Rose de la Force actually was a French novelist and poet. She was also the one telling the tale of Rapunzel for the first time. This definitely peaked my interested and added something extra for the story!
About half the book is about Charlotte-Rose de la Force and her life. Thanks to some scandals, king forces her to move to a convent, where life isn't fun and games. Especially in the beginning her life is miserable. We also get to see glimpses of her earlier life, which was filled with dancing, flirting, scandals, you name it. And I must say I definitely enjoyed those stories more.
Then there's the story of Rapunzel, which locates to Italy in the 16th century. This is the part containing most of the fantasy, yet I still ended up loving Charlotte-Rose's story more. Somehow it just seemed more relatable and the story just flowed. I could've read a book solely concentrating on Charlotte-Rose!
Through the book there's a lot of jumping back and forth in time, which many times confuses me. I don't usually get easily confused, but I never seem to remember which year we're in, so I always have to browse through earlier chapters. And when you add different stories and characters to that.. Oh my, I should've been completely lost!
Yet, the author managed the jumps brilliantly, even my chicken brain managed to stay focused!
This was kind of a risk for me to read, since I usually stick to young adult literature if possible. And tend to avoid any historical- something. So when I actually ended up enjoying this book, I was so happy! Because it's always a pleasure to find a great read, and it's somehow even more amazing when it's out of your comfort zone.
You don't like historical fiction? You should try this out! Love historical fiction? Again, you should definitely try this out.