Bitter Greens
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Bitter Greens

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  942 ratings  ·  229 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Vintage Australia
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Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

An Easy Quiz To See If Bitter Greens Is For You:

#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?

#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?

#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?

#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?

#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me...more
Kate Forsyth
This book has very deep roots that run right back into my childhood, when I was intrigued and enchanted by the original fairytale of Rapunzel. I have always wanted to write a retelling of the Rpaunzel fairytale but my problem was how to reinvent the tale and make it fresh and surprising and compelling. It took me a very long time to write this book and I'm very happy to see it with a beautiful, dreamy, romantic, fairytale cover. I hope anyone who reads it is enchanted and spellbound :)
Rachael McDiarmid
I work in the book industry and when I first read about this book I begged Random House for an advance reading copy. When it arrived, I actually squealed with delight! Once I started, I couldn't put it down. It's the best historical fiction work I've read in a long time (and trust me, I read quite a bit!!). Bitter Greens is beautifully written, with wonderful female characters, and a story that just had to be told. I must admit, I was more fascinated by Charlotte-Rose de la Force than the retell...more
Karen Brooks
I confess I'm a long time fan of Kate Forsyth's work ever since I read The Witches of Eileanan and sent my first email ever to an author to express my appreciation. I know the high standards Kate sets and that which her readers have come to expect and what a magnificent storyteller she is, even so, this did not prepare me for the experience of reading Bitter Greens. Quite simply, this is an outstanding, mesmerizing book that is one of the finest works of historical fiction I have read.

Weaving t...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I feel kind of terrible writing this review because this book is awesome ... and not available in the U.S. (It is available in the UK.) As usual, with a book I love this much, I'm having a hard time writing a coherent review. I really ought to just do a video review so I can wave my hands and make excited noises -- that'd probably convey more.

I'm a sucker for a fairy tale retold, especially when they're placed in a historical era, marrying 'real' with 'fantasy'. In this case, the fairy tale is R...more
I bought this book last week at the Newcastle Writers Festival, and was lucky enough to have it signed by the author. This review also forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.

I was vascillating between four and five stars and then decided on five. For me, five stars means that I will, without a shadow of a doubt, read it again. Why the four star/five star indecision? Well, read on. I'll try not to taint this review with spoilers, though it might be tricky.

This review also appears on my blog.

I'm a big fan of the "true story" versions of fairy tales. Well, OK, I'm really just a big fan of Ever After, but details, schmetails. My point is when I found out this was a story about the origins of Rapunzel, I knew I wanted to give it a try. It surpassed my expectations and I fell in love with the story and the characters. In Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth has created a wonderful, beautifully tangled* narrative of three remarkable women.

It begins with the sto...more
I finished this last night and found it to be an enjoyable read. Fantasy is not a genre I am familiar with, nor one that I generally enjoy, with some exceptions. But this was the story of 3 women told over a 200-year period - one a noblewoman banished from the court of the Sun King, another a young girl locked in a tall tower by a wicked witch 100 years previously (a re-telling of the Rapunzel story), and the other the story of the wicked witch herself and her childhood.

If nothing else, this boo...more
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.

Told in the points of view of three women linked to the legend of the girl locked by a curse in a tower, the story begins in the dazzling, corrupt France of the Sun King, where witty, hapless Charlotte-Rose de la Force finds herself immured in a convent after a disastrous affair that displeased the king. R...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Bitter Greens is a lot of things: historical fiction, historical fantasy, fairy tale retelling. Most importantly, though, it's great fun, containing grand stories worthy of fairy tales, with the complexity and historical background of a good adult novel.

Slightly over half the book is narrated by Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a lady-in-waiting in the court of Louis XIV of France. (She was an actual historical writer, one of the first to tell the Rapunzel fairy tale.) We first meet her at age 47, wh...more
Helen Petrovic
To begin this review, I wanted to share a story with you. Kate Forsyth is an amazing public speaker. She is heartfelt, funny and utterly engaging. And when she spoke about Bitter Greens, I knew I simply had to read it.

I am sure Kate won’t mind me sharing her story with you. When she was young, Kate was injured on the face by a dog. The dog’s tooth pierced her tear duct, damaging it beyond repair. Unable to clear debris from her eye, Kate suffered a series of serious eye infections, which left h...more
I'll start by saying, Yes I would recommend you read this book. Forsyths telling of Rapunzel is beautiful, you cannot help but feel heart broken for the young Marghuerita. Her tale about the witch, Selena, is also masterfully written, giving the character more depth than you could think possible.
I believe the issue of this novel lay with Charlotte-Rose. She is the protagonist of the tale, and we spend most of our time following her story. While I find her story interesting, I don't think it's as...more
Sean the Bookonaut
I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.

This is the first line of Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth’s marvellous retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and it drew me in immediately.

Bitter Greens is a well woven tale that draws together the magic and darkness of the original Rapunzel with an equally enchanting and historically faithful account of the tale’s first author, the enigmatic Charlotte-rose de la Force. If you thought women at the Court of the Sun King were pure decoration, think a...more
This fascinating book is a reworking of the fairy tale Rapunzel woven into the story of Charlotte-Rose Caumont de la Force, who wrote and published a version of the story while locked in an austere French nunnery in the 1690s. There is mystery surrounding how she came to hear of the story, originally published in Italy some 60 years earlier in a dialect Charlotte-Rose would not have been able to read.

Charlotte-Rose had a carefree childhood running wild on her family's estate in Gascony. However,...more
I was always a great talker and teller of tales.
"You've honey on your tongue, ma fifille," Maman once said. "If you'd lived in earlier times, you could have been a troubadour."
"...There aren't any troubadours any more, are there, Maman?" Marie said. "And if there were, girls wouldn't be allowed to be one."
"Probably not," Maman agreed sadly.
"I'll be one anyway," I said with determination.
Maman smiled and gently pulled on my hair. "I'm sure you will, ma fifille, a clever girl like you. You can do
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
In Bitter Greens, Forsyth weaves together the narratives of Rapunzel, the author of the fairy tale, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force and the courtesan sorceress, 'La Strega Bella', Selena Leonelli, against the intriguing backdrop of seventeenth century Europe, from the court of Versailles presided over by the Sun King, Louis XIV to a cloistered stone convent. Bitter Greens is a mesmerising tale blending history, fantasy and adventure in a remarkable story.

Charlotte-Rose de Camont de la Forc...more
Bree T
Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the Court of Louis XIV after some scandals and perhaps being a bit too cheeky in one of her writings. She has been sent to a nunnery which is non-negotiable and must forsake all of her beautiful gowns, her jewels, all her worldly possessions in fact and take a vow of poverty and chastity. She will be on a trial period until such time as she is ready to genuinely take her vows. Alone in the world with no one to help her, Charlotte is desperate to...more
This is a really original, wonderfully written take on the Rapunzel story. It follows three women living in seventeenth century Venice and Versailles, all of whom struggle to find a unique place for themselves in a male-dominated world. The book is set in the historical past, with an intricate plot structure that jumps between eras, but there's also an element of magic that will make fantasy lovers happy.

While I enjoyed Kate Forsyth's writing, loved the settings, and basically devoured the entir...more
Deborah Swift
I absolutely loved this book. Although the cover is very attractive it does not give you a sense of all the delights in store once you open it. The three interwoven story-lines are equally compelling - Charlotte Rose de la Force,(now confined to a french monastery) Selena Leonelli (Titian's Muse) and Margarita - the Rapunzel of the story.

This is a book with breathtaking scope in terms of covering many different settings, from the Palais du Lovre, to the convent of the Abbey of Gercy-en-Brie, Ver...more
I must admit to a slight disappointment as I loved all of The Witches of Eileanan series but found this book to be not as good. When I try to analyse why not I think it must be that although I love fantasy I do not actually like fairy stories much. And since a good third of this book was the retelling of the story of Rapunzel it was probably never going to be the best book for me! I did enjoy the historical fiction parts of it but overall it did not do it for me.

OK – so you want more than wow? As a child I devoured the Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers stories. Rapunzel was one of my favourite Grimm stories and I was delighted to see that the BITTER GREENS character Charlotte-Rose de la Force was a real historical figure who wrote the story of Persinette which was adapted by the Grimm brothers who presented it as Rapunzel.

Too complicated? Then don’t worry about it – just read the story and allow yourself to be swept away into a wh...more
I picked this up primarily due to the fact I had read the book was a retelling of Rapunzel. This book is much much more.

The narrative switches between three female protagonists: Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a vivacious French aristocrat with several scandals under her belt, a passion for writing and a spirit that will not be bound; Margherita, a peasant girl stolen from her parents whose mantra of 'my name is Margherita, my parents loved me, one day I will escape' kept her sane throughout her imp...more
There’s something mesmerising about Kate’s writing, something that weaves together the true story of a wonderful woman with the mythology of Rapunzel so you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. The books is set out as a story within a story around a memoir, and I am impressed with the clarity with which it is delivered.

I was sucked into the story literally from the first chapter: Charlotte-Rose is a powerful narrator with whom I sympathised with instantly. I found Margherita’s parts...more
I sometimes rank my books based on a) whether I read the ending part way through and b) why I did that. I know authors and readers alike are probably horrified that I skip to the end - but please know for me it doesn't ruin the story. It's usually to reassure myself that some character I love is going to "make it" which actually increases my pleasure in reading. I know, weird. To be fair, sometimes it's also because I'm bored to death and don't really care one way or another - but that's usually...more
Melissa Wray
I was captivated by this story and quickly became enthralled as I turned the pages. Kate's writing is so descriptive and enjoyable to read. I was pleasantly surprised when the 3rd POV was introduced. I wanted to keep reading and learn more about each character. There were twists I didn't see coming, one in particular which I won't say for fear of spoiling the surprise. The voice of Charlotte-Rose de la Force had me smiling many times. I loved the history woven into the story and applaud the rese...more
Parlare di Bitter Greens non è semplice. Siamo chiaramente nell’ambito della letteratura di consumo, ma nel suo genere è un libro ambizioso. Mescola diversi elementi (l’horror, la fiaba, il romanzo storico) e cerca di costruire un racconto di ampio respiro. Ci riesce? Insomma, ha senza dubbio tante buone idee, ma non sempre lo svolgimento è degno di nota.
Iniziamo con il chiarire di cosa stiamo parlando: Bitter Greens è una rilettura della fiaba Raperonzolo. L’azione si divide in due filoni narra...more
A must read for anyone. This isn't my usual genre, I prefer YA. But when I heard Kate had a new book coming out, I could not help myself. Her writing style is amazing, she takes me into a world feeling part of the novel. Bitter Greens did not disappoint, it was more than I expected, I was entranced from the beginning to the end. A beautiful story from a wonderful author.
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
‘Her parents had sold her to a sorceress for a handful of bitter greens…parsley, wintercress and rapunzel.’

This beautiful novel has at its heart three women and three stories which are all combined to create a very special and enchanting tale. It is a gorgeous hardback edition, beautifully finished, making it a joy to look at, hold and read. The story is beautifully written, and it makes for an engrossing historical fiction read. In part it is a retelling of a classic fairytale, Rapunzel. But it...more
Laura Hartness
The tower. The hair. The romance. The magic. From fairy stories in childhood, to a Disney film, to a recent YA novel, the story of Rapunzel has always held my fascination. With her expansive tale in Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth has written an epic, sweeping novel that goes far beyond the standard fairy tale. It’s the story of three women, the historical figure Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the familiar Margherita (a.k.a. “Rapunzel”) and Selena Leonelli, the witch who imprisons innocent girls in a t...more
Erin Al-Mehairi
I must say that Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth, could possibly be the front-runner for the best book I read this year. It’s still early in 2013, but I can’t imagine falling in love with a book as much as I’ve fallen in love with Bitter Greens. It most certainly will go on my final list of most cherished and loved books of all time.

Of course, there is the point that I am a perpetual lover of fairy tales, vintage mostly, but also various adaptations and re-tellings. So because this novel is a re-s...more
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Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of more than 20 books for both adults and children.

Her books for adults include 'The Wild Girl', the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world's most famous fairy tales; 'Bitter Greens', a retelling of the Rapunzel fairyt...more
More about Kate Forsyth...
The Witches of Eileanan (The Witches of Eileanan, #1) The Pool of Two Moons (The Witches of Eileanan, #2) The Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride, #1) The Cursed Towers (The Witches of Eileanan, #3) The Fathomless Caves (The Witches of Eileanan, #6)

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“I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.
'You should put a lock on that tongue of yours. It's long enough and sharp enough to slit your own throat,' our guardian warned me, the night before I left home to go to the royal court at Versailles ... I just laughed. 'Don't you know a woman's tongue is her sword? You wouldn't want me to let my only weapon rust, would you?”
“Each word was shaped with certainty, and I felt, more strongly than ever before in my life, that I had at last found my true path. I knew the story would change as I told it. No one can tell as tory without transforming it in some way; it is part of the magic of storytelling. Like the troubadors of the past, who hid their messages in poems, songs and fairy tales, I too would hide my true purpose [ … ]
It was by telling stories that I would save myself.”
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