Bitter Greens

13 ratings 5 stars

Winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association prize for Historical Fiction. A lovely stew of sex, fairytales and, well, sex really. THE AGE. An exquisite rendering of the story behind the Rapunzel fairy tale.

Book Setting: France and Italy
Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth

Winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association prize for Historical Fiction. A lovely stew of sex, fairytales and, well, sex really. THE AGE. An exquisite rendering of the story behind the Rapunzel fairy tale.

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 a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off ... unless he and his wife give away their little girl.

Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, growing to womanhood, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does ...

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling tale of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $19.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781741668483
    Published: 01/03/2013
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 576 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781742756097
    Published: 20/03/2012
    Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
    Extent: 576 pages
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"Captivating marriage of history and folklore featuring characters true to their time periods, yet timeless in their dreams and desires." - 2015 Judges, American Library Association

"A lovely stew of sex, fairytales and, well, sex really. Forsyth does a masterly job in controlling her story of of lesbian nuns, witches and palace intrigues. Telling the story of Rapunzel and its attendant themes from several viewpoints, she has created a darkly compelling novel, which simply seethes with sex scenes." - Dianne Dempsey, The Age

"Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable." - Juliet Marillier

"Surrender yourself to a master storyteller ... Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement." - Susan Vreeland

"Kate Forsyth's love of language, history and storytelling is evident in Bitter Greens, a magnificent reworking of the fairytale Rapunzel.This is much more than a historical romance - it is a story that celebrates women throughout the ages who have refused to be bound by the trappings of their era. Forsyth has an extraordinary imagination and has created something deliciously new out of an old favourite." - Bec Kavanagh, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

"Bitter Greens is one of those rare and delightful books that transcends genre, truly original in scope and invention and showing a writer in mature and full command of her material." - Jean Bedford, The Newtown Review of Books

"This book, which follows three women – Charlotte-Rose, the witch or La Strega, and young Margherita, the girl who is imprisoned in a tower on the Rock of Manerba – is astonishing in its richness and detail. Interwoven with history, fantasy, breathtaking romance and magic, I became as bewitched as Petrosinella at the raw beauty of Bitter Greens.
Kate Forsyth travelled to Paris, Gascony, Venice and the Italian Lakes in search of inspiration for this novel, and she found it. The depth and scope of the research she undertook to pen this tome is quite mind-boggling and it’s clear this author – who is currently completing a doctorate in fairytale retellings – has an abiding passion for history and magic – a delicious and palpable combination.
Set over 200 years, this is a story of love at its outer reaches. It is a story of the power within – of woeful failure and glorious achievement. It is resplendent with human frailty, cruelty and beauty. If books were the notes of a violin, Bitter Greens would be the highest soaring note – the one that brings goosebumps to the skin and swells the heart with passion.
Forsyth’s language and skill for visual and emotional evocation is truly divine – and her cast of characters – both real and imagined – is like manna from heaven. It is an indulgent pleasure to read her beautifully-crafted words, and to be swept into another time and place – so willingly." - Tania McCartney, Australian Women Online

"Kate Forsyth has found a stash somewhere of just such live, enterprising threads. Her new book for adult readers, Bitter Greens, is a turf-to-tower-window braid of live, red-gold hair. It's a big, glorious read, full of love, lust, pain, politics, blood red and blue, and some of the best frocks and the worst fleas ever." - Margo Lanagan, Australian Women Writers

"A must for all lovers of historical fiction - Philippa Gregory watch out!" - Pamela Freeman

"Skilfully weaving a delicious, disturbing braid of richly multi-coloured story, Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens grippingly brings to life a world of magic, corruption, cruelty, and love, spanning two centuries and three very different main characters. Evoking the thrilling and terrifying atmosphere of the Sun-King's court through the eyes of clever, wild French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force, whose noble birth does not protect her from the risks she takes daily, the novel also plunges the reader into the fascinating and sinister world of the Venetian courtesan Selena Leonelli and the sad, lonely life of her young prisoner, Margherita, shut up in a tower. Each of these very different women has been hurt by the past; each is striving to make a place for herself in a dangerous time; but it is the telling of the tale of Margherita, the youngest and sweetest, which will change everything for desperate Charlotte and cruel Selena, giving them both another chance, two hundred years apart..." - Sophie Masson

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon's Ride fantasy series for adults. She completed a doctorate in fairytale retellings and the novels that have come out of this fascination include the winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association Prize for Historical Fiction, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and the forthcoming The Beast's Garden. Her books have been published in seventeen different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain, Russia and Turkey. Kate has also written series for children of all ages and the contemporary novel Dancing on Knives.