Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth #AWW2015

Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical fantasy
Date Read: 05/10/2015 – 16/10/2015
Rating: ★★★★


bittergreensFirst of all, a note on the hashtag in this post’s title. I recently learned about the Australian Women Writers challenge, a challenge which aims to highlight quality books written by Australian women. While I feel I’ve come in a bit late to join in on the challenge properly for this year, I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon where I can. And now on to the review!

This book was recommended to me by a colleague, who allegedly got drunk with Kate Forsyth on one occasion. That’s not why he recommended it to me, though; that has more to do with the fact that I had been talking about Grounded: the Adventures of Rapunzel, and how I was interested in tracking down other Rapunzel adaptations.

Bitter Greens weaves together the stories of Rapunzel (here called Margherita, or Petrosinella) and the witch who holds her captive with that of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, the French novelist who wrote the fairytale we now know as Rapunzel. Unlike many (most?) of the fairytale retellings I’ve read this year, this one is actually adult fiction, in a historical fantasy style, so it was quite different to what I’m used to. I still enjoyed it a lot, though.

The majority of the book is focused on Charlotte-Rose, and alternates between her time imprisoned in an abbey by order of the King (this is where she hears the Rapunzel story) and earlier times in her life. Forsyth’s descriptions of Versailles and life at court are opulent and sensual, made more so I think by the fact that these sections are in first person.

The story of Selena Leonelli, the witch, are also in first person, but only take up a few chapters of the book. It doesn’t defend her actions, but it does explain why she does what she does. Margherita’s story is in third person, and to be honest, it was the one I had the most investment in (I was there for the Rapunzel story after all). Seeing Margherita’s struggle to not go mad as she is shut up in that tower was exactly the kind of thing I had been looking for when I asked for Rapunzel recommendations on GoodReads some months back.

As I said, this story did have elements of fantasy in it, but I would also consider it my first foray into historical fiction. It’s definitely got me interested enough in Kate Forsyth’s writing to look up some more of her works, particularly The Wild Girl, which is the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild (does that not sound perfect?) and The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in the Second World War. I think she is definitely an author worth plenty of time.


#WWW Wednesday – October 21, 2015

Happy Back to the Future Day, everyone! Here is a celebratory picture of me: bttfday

This may be the first time my glasses have ever showed up on this blog, despite the fact that I am wearing them more often than not.

Anyway, that’s not actually what we’re here for. We’re here for WWW Wednesday, a bookish meme that is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words and you can join in over there by leaving a link to your own WWW Wednesday on today’s post.

  • What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker. The only chance I had to read today was while I was waiting to pick up my partner from work, and that wasn’t very long. But this promises to be a really good book, I think.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I finished Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth and gave it four stars. There was less Rapunzel than I hoped for, but it was still an interesting read.

I listened to Silhouette, which is another Doctor Who novel. It was set in Victorian London and featured the Paternostra Gang as well. It was narrated by Dan Starkey, who was able to do a very good Peter Capaldi impression. In fact, most of his male character voices were great, though the female ones were a bit annoying.

And I finally read Fangirl! It’s due back to the library on Friday or Saturday, so I just got there in time. It got 2.5-3 stars from me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but there were enough parts that fell flat for me to not rate it higher. I think perhaps if I was still as much of a fangirl as Cath is (and trust me, I was once), I might have enjoyed it more. I also wondered if the Simon Snow “excerpts” were just made up by Rainbow Rowell to pad her NaNoWriMo word count. They weren’t especially relevant, except for maybe giving us a glimpse of the world Cath is so invested in.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I also have We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and the first two volumes of Return to Labyrinth from the library, so they’ll be up next. I will get through the graphic novels very quickly.

It’s getting quite late now, so I’m going to head off. See you soon!

~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – October 14, 2015

wwwwednesdayI decided to go on a WIPpet Wednesday hiatus until after I hand in my last piece of uni work for the year on November 6. It’s not that I’m not writing anything, but it takes time to properly engage with others’ posts, and I feel bad about posting but not visiting others. WWW is a bit easier in that regard, so I’m still here for that. This meme is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words and you can join in over there by leaving a link to your own WWW Wednesday on today’s post.

  • What are you currently reading?

Still reading Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. I’ve never read much historical fiction, but this is really good! Especially if you also like Rapunzel. Which I do.

I got a bit worn out of the audio version of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and purchased it on my Kindle. It’s sort of on hold until I finish everything I’ve got out from the library, though. There is part of me that Netflixed the movie the other night and thinks maybe that will do me, though. It is quite a young book, and while I’m not above reading middle-grade fiction, this one feels very young.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I dropped The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway because I finally decided disappointing the colleague who loaned it to me by not finishing it was a better option that struggling through a book I was only enjoying now and then. I also dropped Evensong by Krista Walsh because it just wasn’t doing it for me.

I did finish The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester (aka danisnotonfire and TheAmazingPhil on YouTube) this afternoon. They are so proud of this book and I can see why, but in a way, it kind of felt like reading transcripts of their videos… and I’d prefer to just watch their videos…

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

LOL, as I have said for at least the last two Wednesdays,  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I promise I really am going to read it and I’m not just continually say so. And The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker. They’re the two that will be due back to the library the soonest.

That’s it from me this week! Drop by Sam’s blog to see more WWW posts!

~ Emily