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Bittersweet

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,492 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews

Award-winning author Nevada Barr reveals another side to her remarkable storytelling prowess with this heart-wrenching yet tender tale of two women whose boundless devotion to each other is continually challenged in nineteenth century America.

Hardcover, 339 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Cher
Dec 31, 2010 Cher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I keep trying to like this book, but it is so heavy on the "lesbians will be hunted to the ends of the earth by horrible small men who kick puppies" -- which isn't historically inaccurate -- that it is tedious. The sex is pussyfooted around, all pun intended, unless it is a graphic description of marital rape. I'm trying to find the joy or even historical interest in this book, and I'm coming up short. I begged my girlfriend to just tell me the last 100 pages of plot, but she was as heartless as ...more
Carolynn
Dec 30, 2012 Carolynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heart
I have always liked Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon books, and I supposed I would like this one. I was surprised to find it was not in that series, but gave it a whirl anyway. I'm glad I did. Just because you are not in a certain culture doesn't mean you can't understand that the people of that culture have human feelings just like you do, and Nevada paints a beautiful picture of this relationship. I found myself wishing it was a series of books, and that the characters went on and on.... But they did ...more
Lynne
Oct 20, 2012 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
Every once in a while I will pick up a book that I know nothing about, and these books have the chance to surprise me or cause me to stop reading halfway through. To be honest, this book was something completely different from what I usually read. I think the thing that forced my hand was the title, and that it was the only lesbian book my e-library had. So without knowing much more than that, I picked it up (figuratively of course).

The main plot of Bittersweet is the struggles of two very diffe
...more
Blake Fraina
Jul 16, 2012 Blake Fraina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whew.

I can’t say I enjoyed this novel, exactly. Although I don’t regret reading it either. But I do feel as if I've been put through the ringer a bit.

Mystery writer Nevada Barr’s foray into historical fiction is so convincing in its depiction of the hardships of the Old West, I could practically feel my skin leathering in the relentless desert sun and taste the dust rising off the stagecoach trail. It tells the story of Imogene Grelznik, a "spinster" schoolteacher forced by a scandal [involving
...more
Cari
Nov 11, 2010 Cari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to rate, because while the storytelling was at best mediocre, I found the story itself engrossing. I've never read Nevada Barr before but have learned that she usually writes a series of mysteries. I confess that I'm not tempted to pick up anything else by her, but, to her credit, she did a great job choosing her topic in her attempt with Bittersweet to write historical fiction. Based on "women's diaries", according to the book jacket, this story describes the lives of two wo ...more
Bib
Apr 24, 2015 Bib rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual woman disguised as man story, set in a believable historical backdrop. The book is enthralling and tugs at emotions. Though there's no HEA ending, Sarah became a stronger person at the end.
Sara Schertz
Apr 07, 2012 Sara Schertz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not generally a huge fan of historical fiction, but I listened to the audio book version of this and I really enjoyed it. The start was a bit slow, as it seemed to take a long time for the two main characters to connect with one another. However, I was listening to that part while on a long drive, so I don't think the slowness was as noticeable as it might have been if I was reading it.

I sort of went through phases of really liking the characters, and then not liking them quite so much.

I rea
...more
Abby
I got this book for fifty cents at a chich book sale and what a buy. The story is about 2 women in the who travel from PA out to Nevada when it is first being settled. The relationship beween them builds and you get to care very deepl about their lives They fcae down so much hate and sadness but in the end, despite the title being very true, you are left savoring the sweetness of this book. I was sad when in the author bio I saw this was her first non-mystery novel but then when I saw it was pub ...more
Beth
Nov 19, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting look at attitudes towards same-sex relationships in another century. It is a work of fiction, but no doubt is a story that could very well have happened. Life was hard for women in general in this time, and for lesbians, would have been even harder. You gained your status based on what male you were connected to--father, husband. If you had neither, you had no husband and were of marrying age, you had nothing, no right to vote or sign legal agreements. Barr points out the ...more
Stephanie Dahlberg
This book so surprised me. It is historical fiction that deals beautifully with a lesbian relationship. I learned from the historical setting and times described in the writing but I ended up admiring the love between these two women. I came away thinking, "Heck, love is love!" and I am a straight female. For sure, the plot is believable. Another bonus is it totally surprises the reader in some spots.
Ashley
Feb 10, 2013 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Recommendation
Recommended to those who enjoy John Irving or David Adams Richards novels.

Review
While the writing is good (but not amazing) I found a sincere attachment to the characters and their lives that left me thinking about them long after I finished the novel. A beautiful romance/family drama that shows the many different types of love and how they can develop and change over time.
Margaret
Aug 03, 2016 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-other
One of those books that stays with you. I remember the clever and hard-won solution two women found to be a couple in even less tolerant times. I don't know if their plan would actually work, and the suspense would be wearing, but it is emotionally satisfying to think that they tried.
Christie Chorbagian
My Favorite love story of all time.
Lisa D
Nov 27, 2016 Lisa D rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This one just wasn't for me. Probably my fault for not heeding the title. I love gay historical fiction in the vein of Sarah Waters, but I wasn't up to the hammer of one tragedy after another descending on this couple. The events became so oppressive I regret to say it began to border on comical--if anybody kind showed up, I knew I could expect them to die horribly or take a turn for the homophobic within a chapter or two. I assume the point was to portray how oppressive society must've felt to ...more
Jill Madsen
I purchased this book years ago - started it, but didn't get far so it found a place on my bookshelf for the past 15 years. I recently picked it up again for my book club. It was still a struggle for me to get through - it felt like a slow read, but made myself push through this as I reminded myself that the pace was more inline with the period the book took place in. The other piece I struggled with was the depth of ugliness that Imogne and Sarah experienced. I have no doubt that it is the real ...more
Raechel
Dec 31, 2016 Raechel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was actually everything. it was so beautiful, my heart ached. such a touching story.
love truly does mean a lot more than some people would like to think.
a little more detail on he happyness would be greatly appreciated.
Darlene
In the days of one-room schoolhouses in PA and and the lure of silver mining in NV, women in love had limited options, yet Imogene and Sarah persisted with secrets and sacrifices.
Eric
Oct 16, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only thing this book has in common with any of Nevada Barr's other works is that really bad things happen to her protagonists. In a time and place where all the cards were stacked against women who wanted to go their own way these characters proved to be incredibly strong and resilient. The title is perfectly apt because of all the bitter hardships they have to endure in order to live the life they want. Their story is not a happy one, but a hopeful one, focusing on celebrating life's small ...more
Mfred
Oct 11, 2011 Mfred rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, western
Originally posted to the Lesbrary, at lesbrary.wordpress.com

The back copy of Nevada Barr’s Bittersweet promised me a truthful, accurate portrayal of two women living together in the 1800s West. Imogene, a spinster teacher, is forced from her job in the East when her secret affair with a female student is revealed. She ends up in small Pennsylvania farming town, where she starts a friendship with Sarah Mary. However, malicious gossip eventually finds her again, and Imogene and Sarah are chased ou
...more
Benjamin Thomas
I selected this novel because of the author, Nevada Barr. I have never read any of her work but have heard great things about her mystery series involving a park ranger. Supposedly, they are a "different" sort of mystery. Since this was a stand-alone book I thought I'd give it a try. Overall I can say Ms Barr impresses me as a writer. This is basically a western novel but definitely a "different" sort of western.

Ms Barr's word choice is superb. Her descriptions of the locale, the scenery, the v
...more
Mandi German
Jun 30, 2012 Mandi German rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SPOILERS!!! I have seen people going on and on about the student/teacher relationship, but to those people I say keep reading. The thing is with this book you need to put yourself in their shoes, forget about morals today but look at morals then. You married young and died young, so the age difference between the two characters happened. If Imogene had been a male and they were married which Sarah did marry a much older man then it wouldn't have been an issue.
This story is mostly about Sarah in
...more
Donna Davis
This is a very different book from the main body of Barr's work, her mystery/crime thrillers whose protagonist is ranger Anna Pigeon. In this stand-alone, painstakingly crafted historical fiction, Barr gives us a pair of main characters, lesbian women who contrive to remain closeted (not really a social choice but a survival skill) and who use a variety of means in order to stay together during the 1800's, outside the control of men.

Have you ever wondered how lesbians and gay men got by in prev
...more
Danie
Jul 15, 2015 Danie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
I wasn't sure what to expect when I decided to read this. There are oh so many things that can go wrong near the end of books where there are women who love other women.

Still, it wasn't the happiest of novels either. It was very much like Jane Eyre, and other books from that era. There's an older guiding character and a young innocent here they just happen to both be women.

It was Barr's first novel and in places you can tell that. The end kinda drops off a cliff, the reader is chugging along and
...more
Katherine
In a way my rating means nothing at all, because this story holds its own, regardless of anyone's likes or dislikes. I found it a very compelling read. I started it around 10 pm on Sunday and finished around 2;30 am on Monday. I literally could not stop reading.

I'm a big fan of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mysteries, so I was predisposed to enjoy any of her writing, especially when it's a bargain Kindle deal. This is very much a different story, written long before her mysteries, in a different sty
...more
Kay
Jul 03, 2012 Kay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a fan of Nevada Barr for years. I have enjoy following Anna Pigeon as she traveled around the National Park system solving murders and confronting her personal challenges.

This book is not about Anna. It is about two women in the late 1800's who want to have a gay relationship. To say the society at that time didn't approve of such relationships, is like saying a hurricane is just a passing breeze. The book follows their lives as they move from town to town, trying to find a place the
...more
Laurie
Dec 20, 2014 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this book was published in 1983, I had been skipping over it on the library shelves, figuring I must have already read it. When I actually picked it up, I realized that it's totally different than the Anna Pigeon series I'm used to from Nevada Barr. It's a historical novel about two women in the late 19th century who choose to share their lives with one another rather than being married to men. Reading it made me really glad to be living in the 21st century. Women weren't even legally allo ...more
Kim
Nov 07, 2008 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane
Mar 14, 2008 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be more of an historical novel than a love story between two women. It follows the lives of two Frontier women living in the West. One woman is a strong, determined character who has moments of weakness but always gathers her strength to do what must be done.

The other main character is a woman so weak that I expected her to either kill herself, die of illness or declare, "This is too hard, I'll just marry some man."

The day to day hardships of life are detailed, so much so th
...more
Elizabeth
Apr 29, 2015 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq
For a book about lesbians being hunted down to the ends of the Earth, forever and always, Barr was pretty light on the actual lesbianism. It was a good story, albeit historically inaccurate in some ways. I wished we could have actually gotten to see Sarah and Imogene be genuinely happy once and a while -- especially since there's historical evidence (see, for example, Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America ) that lesbian couples could establish themselves in small American tow ...more
Pat
Aug 06, 2016 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was fun to read this non-Pigeon Barr novel--especially because I live in northern Nevada and know the Round Hole/Fox Range area in which the bulk of the action takes place. Barr's descriptions of Comstock Lode-era Reno and the sagebrush landscape ring home for me. Indeed, Barr was born in Yerington, NV, which is my county seat!
I simply fell in love with capable, long-suffering Imogene, who transforms herself to live in a man's world (literally ...) to escape societal condemnation of her lesbi
...more
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Nevada Barr is a mystery fiction author, known for her "Anna Pigeon" series of mysteries, set in National Parks in the United States. Barr has won an Agatha Award for best first novel for Track of the Cat.

Barr was named after the state of her birth. She grew up in Johnstonville, California. She finished college at the University of California, Irvine. Originally, Barr started to pursue a career in
...more
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