I’m not usually a reader of historical literature but this novel was a delicious blend of history and magic that had me turning page after page late into the night as I devoured every beautifully turned sentence. Kate Forsyth is an inspiration as she’s not only an Australian author, a five time winner of the Aurealis Award but also one who is undertaking a Doctorate in fairytale retelling at the University of Technology, Sydney. This doctorate is what inspired both Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl.
Bitter Greens interweaves the threads of three women’s lives: Charlotte-Rose de la Force, who’s story is based on the real French story-teller’s scandalous life, Selena Leonelli, muse of the Italian painter Titian and witch, and Margherita, the familiar Rapunzel of our childhood fairytales. All their stories are connected through the art of storytelling in this adaption of the fairytale Rapunzel, a stunning blend of magic, truth and love, and all three women have power despite the male dominated worlds they exist in. It is fitting then that, unlike other fairytales (especially many adaptions by Disney), these women are inspired by other women or learn to save themselves.
The historical settings of France and Italy during the 14th and 15th century were wonderfully depicted through costumes, language and attitudes towards women and minority groups and I long to find out more about the passionate writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. With a name like that, she was destined to be strong-willed and courageous!
The novel is beautifully written and I am now super keen to read Kate Forsyth’s “The Wild Girl”, a story of the Brothers Grimm and their neighbour, Dortchen Wild.