MLA Gold Award Site

Bitter Greens: Book summary and reviews of Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens

by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Sep 2014
    496 pages
    Genre: Love Stories

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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.

Read a Sample

Click to the right or left of the sample to turn the page.
(If no book jacket appears in a few seconds, then we don't have an excerpt of this book or your browser is unable to display it)

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Forsyth, a PhD candidate in fairy tale retellings, reflects her depth of knowledge in this captivating novel that enchants with its gorgeous narrative and memorable characters who discover how the choices we make define and bind us. Full of palace intrigue, dark magic, romance, and lush, evocative descriptions, this is historical fiction at its finest." - Library Journal

"Forsyth undertakes an ambitious plot and, with a creative presentation, makes it work. She convincingly conveys a fairy tale-like quality in her writing and peppers the narrative with historical detail and some interesting twists that neatly tie together the strands of the story. This unconventional spin on a children's classic is a captivating read and unquestionably aimed toward adults." - Kirkus

"...a very long historical romance that is sometimes frustrating as it switches back and forth among the three episodic stories. However, fans of this type of fiction will doubtless be enchanted by the operatic nature of the stories and the fascinating historical details of life at Louis' court." - Booklist

"Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens is an enthralling concoction of history and magic, an absorbing, richly detailed, and heart-wrenching reimagining of a timeless fairytale." - Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Rival

"Surrender yourself to a master storyteller, to delicious detail and spunky heroines. Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement." - Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

"A magical blend of myth and history, truth and legend, Bitter Greens is one of those rare books that keeps you reading long after the lights have gone out, that carries you effortlessly to another place and time, that makes you weep and laugh and wish you could flip forward to make sure it all ends happily ever after - but for the fact that if you did so, you might miss a line, and no line of this book should be missed." - Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Ashford Affair

"Kate Forsyth wields her pen with all the grace and finesse of a master swordsman. In Bitter Greens she conjures a lyrical fairytale that is by turns breathtaking, inspiring, poetic, and heartbreakingly lovely."- New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

"A truly original writer, Forsyth has crafted an often terrifying but ultimately redemptive dark fairy tale of the heart."- Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of Claude & Camille

"Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it's one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I've ever read." - C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici 

"Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable."- Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author of Flame of Sevenwaters and Heart's Blood 

"A must for all lovers of historical fiction - Philippa Gregory, watch out!"- Pamela Freeman, Aurealis Award-winning author of Ember and Ash

"The best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter."- Kim Wilkins, author of Angel of Ruin and The Autumn Castle

The information about Bitter Greens shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Mary G. (Purcellville, VA)

Bitter Greens: A Tale Well-Woven
Bitter Greens is a fascinating historical novel set in the 14th century that uses the classic fairy tale, Rapunzel, as it's framework. The book is divided into three strands. The first is the story of French noblewoman, Charlotte-Rose, who is credited as the author of Rapunzel. The second strand is the story of Selena, the Venetian courtesan/witch who imprisons Rapunzel. The third is the story of Rapunzel herself: Margherita, the daughter of an impoverished Venetian mask-maker and his wife. The strands are interwoven as tightly as Rapunzel's braid and the reader is drawn into the lives of these three women.

Bitter Greens is clever, original, and well-written. I hope Kare Forsyth plans to re-imagine other classic fairy tales.

Rita H. (Centennial, CO)

A Spell-Binding Delight
What a fabulous book! Bitter Greens is a weaving of three stories within one which captivates and binds the reader as surely as the heroines are captivated and bound within the stories. Based upon the fairy tale Rapunzel, this a historical novel to be read, re-read and shared. Witches, courtesans, inquisitors, innocents and princes move in and out as the stories move through two centuries in Venice and France. Ms. Forsythe is truly a master of words and her love of words sparkles throughout and paints scenes so alive that I felt I was truly a part of the story. I felt the hunger, despair, hope, fear and, yes, thrill of seduction and love contained in these pages. This book was so fascinating that I read the afterword and acknowledgements with almost as much eagerness as I had read the story. Now, I am intrigued to read the quoted poetry and many of the sources, especially Anne Somerset's The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV. I think that bookclubs would be enthralled and that discussions would be lively and spell-binding.

Lois (Wilmington, DE)

"Bitter Greens", history and magic well combined
Kate Forsyth has taken a puzzle from the world of fairy tale authors and written an intriguing novel, which combines the world of courtly life in 17th century France with one of my favorite fairy tales.

She tells three stories, braiding them together one strand at a time so accurately that you always know where you are, but not necessarily where you are going. The conclusion is a tour de force, with all explained very satisfactorily. It's a book I couldn't put down once I started reading (and it's a good thing I was on a long flight, I finished just as we landed). I recommend this book highly.

Tilli F. (Florence, MA)

An amazing Story
At first I was confused. It seemed to be two unrelated stories. Then I was absorbed. The life and times of Charlotte Rose was very interesting. Then I was frustrated. I wanted to hear more about Rapunzel and I still didn't understand how the two were connected. And by the end I was satisfied and sated by these two stories! And I finally understood that the one was originally told by the other, and that both were richly detailed and alive. A very good read.

April P. (Traverse City, Mi)

Bitter Greens, Bitter Sweet!
This book was a very good read. I enjoyed how European history was intertwined with the lives of many of the women throughout the story. There are many different snapshots of women's lives throughout the story that keeps you grounded but also keeps you cheering for these women and hoping they get a happy ending. The author does an amazing job of creating an evil character that the reader will undoubtedly feel compassion for. The magic woven throughout pulls the reader in and keeps you wanting more and the ending is completely bittersweet!

Peggy K. (San Diego, CA)

Timeless Tales
This is a beautifully written book about three women. The youngest is the center of a well known fairy tale. The second will be her tormentor and the narrator a French aristocrat imprisoned herself in a convent.

The truth behind the fairy tale is very different and this story will change forever the way you see the tale of Rapunzel. Readers will be caught up in the story of each of these women and perhaps there is some compassion to be shared for the evil witch.

The book will appeal to teens and adults. Once picked up you won't want to put it down until you know the whole story. It is a great read for any time. Book clubs can discuss the harshness of life in those times and how this story became the fairy tale we all know.

I am very glad that I asked for this book.

...12 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Information

More Information

Kate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults, including the Witches of Eileanan series. She is the only author to win five Aurealis Awards in a single year and was voted one of Australia's Favourite 25 Novelists. Her books have been published in fourteen countries. She completed her doctorate in fairy tale retellings at the University of Technology in Sydney in 2014. Kate lives in Sydney, Australia.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more love stories...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Murder at the 42nd Street Library
    Murder at the 42nd Street Library
    by Con Lehane
    It doesn't matter if you're stopping in your favorite library to quickly pick up a book, or settling...
  • Book Jacket: The Loney
    The Loney
    by Andrew Hurley
    Landscape can be a writer's best friend. Whether it's the mountains of England's lake...
  • Book Jacket: The Mirror Thief
    The Mirror Thief
    by Martin Seay
    It is easy to see why Martin Seay's debut novel, The Mirror Thief, has been compared to David ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Alaskan Laundry
    by Brendan Jones

    A fresh debut novel about a young woman who moves to Alaska and finds herself through the hard work of fishing.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Win this book!
Win The Children

From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary

The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.

Enter

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I A Greek T M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.