Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bitter Greens” as Want to Read:
Bitter Greens
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Bitter Greens

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  1,301 ratings  ·  339 reviews
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...

After Margherita's father steals from the walled garden o...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published March 20th 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bitter Greens, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Anna No I don't think it is considered Young Adult. My library has it in adult fiction and several other sources indicate that it is adult.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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 :)
Jenna  *Puddin Tame*
If I could give this book ten BIG golden stars, I would! Actually I am giving away a copy, so let me know if you are interested in me putting your name in the drawing or head over to on Sept 23 to enter. It starts Sept 23-Sept 29. If you are a U.S. resident then I will add all my likes from here into the drawing as well :)

A special thanks to Amy Bruno for the advanced copy for an honest review as well as St. Martin's Press and Kate Forsyth!

This is a retelling of the most famo...more
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
The ideal reader for this book would be someone who loves both historical fiction and fairy tales. The reader who dislikes one of these types of narratives is likely to find a large portion of the novel rather tiresome. Fortunately, I am one of those readers who does enjoy both.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Bitter Greens is its structure. The two story lines are braided like Rapunzel’s hair. They share themes. All the female characters struggle for independence, and the power to decide...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
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 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
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
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 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.

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
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
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 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
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
4.5 stars
Three tales woven as expertly as I have ever seen and one of them true as well. I couldn't make up my mind which one I wanted to follow most. I think I enjoyed the story of Margherita the most though. I am a sucker for a good fairy tale retelling. The amount of research that must have went into this book is astounding. There were so many elements at play - Venice, the Sun King, Huguenots, Rapunzel, Titian. This is the way I like history - told in stories - much like Charlotte-Rose herse...more
I was looking forward to reading Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, its been on my list of upcoming books to read for quite a while now. It's the retelling of the traditional fairytale of Rapunzel as well as a historical novel about Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the woman who wrote the fairytale 'Persinette' which was later adapted by the Brothers Grimm as the story we know as Rapunzel.

I enjoyed the beginning of the story where we are introduced to Charlotte-Rose de la Force and follow her after she i...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.
This novel is absolutely delightful to read! Forsyth masterfully blends history with fairy tale and bits of magic all surrounding the origins of the tale of Rapunzel. The different elements and perspectives of the story weave together to create an absorbing and downright bewitching novel. The preface of the book explains that the Rapunzel story first emerged in Italy and then inexplicably sixty-four years later, the same tale appears in France. Written by a member of Louis XIV’s court, Charlotte...more
Jessica McCann
Jul 29, 2014 Jessica McCann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: I won an ARC from the publisher
This was the perfect book to read while on vacation. It was dark and magical, complex and literary, and yet also whimsical and hopeful. I knew very little about the fairytale Rapunzel (other than a girl with long hair being locked in a tower) and even less about 16th and 17th century Italian and French history when I began reading the book. The author wove an abundance of historical detail into this fictional tale, but it rarely felt heavy-handed and I learned a great deal.

The book weaves togeth...more
Bitter Greens is a fantastic book. One of the best I’ve read all year.

Kate Forsyth is a marvelous writer, combining gorgeously lush descriptions, beautifully crafted characters, and strong but realistic heroines that all have interconnected stories. I don’t know what more else I can say that hasn’t already been said by others.

Published earlier in Australia, I had to wait many years before this novel was widely available in America (thank you for finally bringing it over!). Not only does it captu...more
This and other reviews are on my site My Friends Are Fiction

My Thoughts:
This book was breathtaking and I have failed to find words to adequately describe how much I enjoyed it. I’ve sat on my review and notes for over a month attempting to figure out how to convey my emotions while reading. I can’t promise this will be coherent but I can say that I loved this book.

I went into it knowing only that it was an adult fiction retelling of Rapunzel. I was not nearly prepared for the epic and historic...more
Jenny Q
Giveaway @ Let Them Read Books!

I have been waiting for Australian author Kate Forsyth's books to become available in the US, and it's finally happening! Bitter Greens has been on my wishlist since I first saw it, and while I was a little wary at the beginning of the multiple viewpoints and how the narrative moves back and forth in time, my fears were soon laid to rest. This is an ambitious and beautifully written tale of epic proportions whose strength lies in the strength of the women who tell...more

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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls
  • Power and Majesty (Creature Court, #1)
  • The Wilful Eye (Tales from the Tower, #1)
  • The Raven's Heart
  • The Fairest of Them All
  • Cooking With Bones
  • Alias Hook
  • Winter Be My Shield (Children of the Black Sun, #1)
  • Jane
  • The Turning of Anne Merrick
  • The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
  • Princess of Thorns
  • Dark Horse
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island
  • While Beauty Slept
  • The First Third
  • Sold for Endless Rue
  • The Flower Reader
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 Cursed Towers (The Witches of Eileanan, #3) The Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride, #1) The Fathomless Caves (The Witches of Eileanan, #6)

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“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.”
More quotes…