10 December, 2015

Book Review: Bitter Greens

From GoodreadsAn 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.

Thoughts: Kate Forsyth has become one of those authors I immediately recommend to people who ask me for something new. Her writing is fluid, magical, provoking strong images and emotions. Her female characters are flawed but strong and compelling. And when the blurb tells you it's "three stories, braided together" it speaks true - the stories are interwoven, each strand clear and engrossing but so precisely interlocked with the others the change over is seamless. The women have lives that are complicated and intriguing. They are living in a time when their sex can be such a disadvantage, yet all of the rise against this and carve out a life of their own - not perfect, but theirs. Still their paths cross and their stories overlap and parallel. It's a bit like seeing an intriguing pattern come to life with words instead of lines.
Add to this Forsyth's incredible detail of King Louis XIV Versailles court, her attention to detail in her research shining through and you have a book well worth exploring. Much like the court itself, Forsyth's descriptions are rich, but there is an undertow of seediness as well.  You can see the tightrope the court walks on to maintain the favour of the king, knowing full well how devastating the drop will be if you fall. 
Bitter Greens is a book to immerse yourself in. It is a book that will make you fall in love with fairytales all over again.

Bitter Greens gets 5 stars

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing