BITTER GREENS by Kate Forsyth
If you are unsure about historical fiction but like fairytale retellings, you will like this. If you are unsure about fairytale retellings but love historical fiction, you will also like this. Basically, this book would on several levels for many people.
Bitter Greens is the story of the three women: the woman we recognize as the author of the modern Rapunzel, Charlotte-Rose, Margherita, the girl caught in the tower, and her captor, Selena (the evil witch). While only an enjoyable read in the end, at times this book blew me away at how thoroughly captivating it is. Forsyth does an excellent work of interweaving all of these women together and writing them so that no woman/perspective is left out.
One of the more unlikable aspects of the book, however, is Selena’s, the “evil” witch, perspective. Her story, unlike the other two, only lends itself to one constrained portion of the book and while that is fine, I felt like I missed out on understanding her character development all the way till the end of the book. Seeing the situations she deals with as a child, I understood her reasoning behind some things but her transformation from a whore to an evil witch completely baffled me. I thought her character was somehow forced into a role which I didn’t imagine would form naturally if we were only given Selena’s own storyline. To fit into the story of Margherita, Selena had to become the evil witch and it felt a bit unfair that she was pushed into this role. And even more, in the end, when her character goes through another change—I won’t say much about that as it’s a spoiler—I felt like everything happened too abrupt and without proper explanation or flow.
Having said that, Selena was probably one of the more interesting characters next to Charlotte-Rose. Perhaps it’s because I’m already all too familiar with the story of Rapunzel, but Margherita did not hold my attention nearly as much as the other two women. That, and the fact that while Margherita plays the more conventional role which is expected of women during 17th century, Charlotte-Rose and Selena’s stories were more challenging, not to mention far darker.
Forsyth also did an excellent work of integrating historical figures into fiction. It was kind of guilty fun to notice some of the historical figures in the book and think, “oh! I know that person.” And Forsyth also seems to have done well with merging real timelines and fictional details. The perfect example of this is, of course, Charlotte-Rose’s character herself. Quite an impressive feat!
An highly entertaining read in the end. Not one I would like to take too close a look at but would just prefer to sit back and enjoy.
Rating – ★★★☆☆