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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,144 ratings  ·  114 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, 352 pages
Published August 1st 1984 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1984)
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Carolynn Padgett
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
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
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
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
Sara Schertz
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
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
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
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
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
Originally posted to the Lesbrary, at

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
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
Mandi German
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
Blake Fraina

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
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
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.
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
Pretty obviously her first novel, so I looked past some clunky plotting because the characters and story pulled me in for most of the book. In the end, I think it was just too long and that I lost interest because it was clear the audience was going to skip over most of their happiness and instead only experience the characters' most torturous moments. And those moments can't simply be undercut with pronouncements of love (even though they were truly, truly beautiful). But at least it made me fe...more
Jan Richards
This was Nevada Barr's first book and like many "firsts" it may be her best. It follows the lives of two women -- not part of the mainstream of the 19th century -- and allows us to witness the life they built...the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. A must read in the 21st century -- to show us all how far we have come.
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.
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
Did not finish. Spoilers! Historical details great , but story was unbelievable (and hard to believe in historical context, especially) as character's interactions were not well drawn. I kept wondering why and when they had developed such strong feelings for each other. Finally put it down when main character was okay with leaving her child. Could not relate.
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
So I was taken aback by this book. I did not expect this to be a story about two women in love. It was a good read, interesting the lengths women went to back then to hide the truth about themselves.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
As if being a woman in 19th century America wasn't hard enough, try being a gay woman in the West. Vivid descriptions of northern Nevada, including Reno and Pyramid Lake. Lots of colorfully drawn characters but the ending was somehow a bit unsatisfying. More like 3 1/2 stars.
Wow, Nevada Barr outside of the Anna Pigeon series and it was GREAT!!

I was thoroughly invested in these characters. What I mean, I wanted to know what was going to happen and I wanted good things to happen to them.

This book took place right after the Civil War, out on the Nevada Territory and when Nevada became a state. It was a hard country and two women made it, in an amazing way. It was a beautifully written love story. I really loved Mac, the hard working cowboy. He was just such a true cha...more
Emily Decobert
I was impressed by the difficult topic of this book and the elegant way the author handled it. The heroines of this book are two women who are in love. In the 1880's, such a thing was unthinkable, such a life forbidden. Chased away and often fleeing to find a safe haven, they finally stumble on an ingenious solution-----but will it last?

Bittersweet shows life in this time with all its hardships, prejudices, and unfairnesses, especially against women. A woman was submissive to her husband, no oth...more
Well, I was very surprised by this book because Nevada Barr usually writes in one particular genre. Most of her books are about a park ranger who solves some kind of crime. I assumed that is what this one would be, but it couldn't have been further from it. It was a historical novel set in the late 1800's and was a lesbian love story. Mostly I liked it, but I was put off by how the school teacher was attracted to a fifteen year old girl. It just felt too young and a little pedophile to me in the...more
April Hochstrasser
Nevada Barr's first novel back in 1983 and one of her best. She has two others that I've actually given five stars to. (Fire Storm and Blind Descent)The pathos of two women living together in 1875 and being driven from town to town as people suspected what they were. The reasons behind one of them turning to another woman were understandable when you knew her background. Their eventual solution to living together was creative and unexpected and had me applauding their creativity.
I really enjoyed this book and found it fascinating as I do most stories of women in the Old West. I have read several of Nevada Barr's books because they take place in National Parks, but this one is not part of the Anna Pigeon series.

The story of Imogene and Sarah was heartbreaking and sweet - "bittersweet" is a great description of it. It disturbs me how women were treated in those days and how hard they had to work for such little respect.

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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
More about Nevada Barr...
Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon, #1) Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon, #6) A Superior Death (Anna Pigeon, #2) Ill Wind (Anna Pigeon, #3) Firestorm (Anna Pigeon, #4)

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