Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens

Kate Forsyth

Publisher: Vintage

RRP $ 32.99

550pp

Category: Fiction

Bitter Greens is an epic story full of magic, romance and intrigue. Part historical fiction, part fairytale, it is the complex story of three lives.

The year is 1697, and Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished because of one too many scandals. She is sent to the Abbey of Gercy-en-Brie. Once famous at court for her story-telling abilities, Charlotte-Rose is mortified when the nuns at the Abbey destroy all her writing quills and paper. In time though, Charlotte-Rose becomes friendly with one of the older nuns and the apothecary of the Abbey, Soeur Seraphina. While planting parsley seeds in the Abbey’s garden, Soeur Seraphina narrates the story of Margherita…

Some one hundred years earlier in Venice, Italy, seven year old Margherita encounters an evil sorceress, Selena Leonelli. She learns from her parents the story of how her father came to steal bitter greens from the garden of the sorceress and how it came to pass that, after seven years, the sorceress would come to take Margherita away. Margherita is imprisoned in a tower on the Rock of Manerba from the age of twelve. Once a month, at the time of the full moon, Selena Leonelli, otherwise known as La Strega, comes to the tower for Margherita’s blood. La Strega is hoping this will keep her young forever. Margherita tries to escape, but there is no way out although she continues to remind herself of three essential truths:

My name is Margherita.

                                                                                My parents loved me.

                                                                                One day, I will escape…

                                                               

Venice in the early 1500’s, and Maria is a young girl being brought up in the house of her mother, a courtesan. When her mother dies, Maria begins to learn the art of witchcraft from Wise Sibillia and changes her name to Selena Leonelli. When the plague strikes Venice and Wise Sibillia dies, Selena is left with no other option than to become a courtesan herself. Although she is beautiful, Selena is obsessed with maintaining her beauty and will stop at nothing to keep her youthfulness. She begins to practice her dark magic in order to keep youth and becomes known as La Strega…

Forsyth has cleverly woven these three stories together in a lavish tale full of magic, intrigue and romance, and is all the more powerful because of the strong thread of storytelling that runs through it.

Although a work of fiction, Bitter Greens is based on the real life of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force. This feisty heroine was the original author of the fairytale Persinette – the earliest knownversion of the Rapunzel story.

8.5/10

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