Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

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.

Received for review.

I'm a big fan of French anything so I could pass up the opportunity to read this book set in historical France.  I liked the idea of it more than the actual book, perhaps because it ran to almost 500 pages.  Five hundred rather yawn inducing pages.

I liked Charlotte-Rose as a person since she was smart and funny and resourceful but the incessant harping on how she was punished for essentially being a feminist before it was socially acceptable was more than a bit annoying.  The first few times, fine, but to mention it on nearly every page was overkill.  Yeah, yeah, we know she was a feminist and evil men sent her to a nunnery.  Yawn.

Margherita was a completely different story.  I gather we were supposed to like and sympathize with her as the inspiration for the Rapunzel fairy tale but she just came across as completely unsympathetic.  She was just so incredibly annoying.  And, yet again, the author continued to beat a dead horse with how she was betrayed by men, blah, blah, blah.  I actually disliked her enough that I wasn't even happy or brought to tears by the conclusion of her story.  I was just thrilled the book was almost over.

While the Charlotte-Rose part of the book is entertaining the Margherita part is annoying and left me counting the pages until I returned to the "real" story.

If you can get past Margherita's whininess and complete lack of any redeeming qualities, as well as the author's constant feminist remarks then this is actually a rather good read.  If you're a feminist who enjoys historical fiction then you will enjoy this significantly more.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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