Sunday, May 5, 2013

Walter Mason reads Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens

We live in states of constant busy-ness, and often even our reading lives fall victim to our need to prioritise. Work-related books, things we simply have to read, magazines, journals, newspapers, blogs and websites. I can easily reach the end of a busy month and discover I haven't given myself a single page of pleasure reading.

It was in the state of such a realisation that I picked up Kate Forsyth's exquisite novel, Bitter Greens, and fell instantly in love. From the very first page Forsyth absorbs the reader in this rich and constantly surprising story, a re-telling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel that has all the elements of a good read - mythic archetypes, wicked stepmothers, religion, sex and lots and lots of historical glamour.

Until now I had never read one of Kate Forsyth's books. I  honestly never imagined I was the target market. But having read Bitter Greens I realize I am hooked for life, and have already started her brand new novel, The Wild Girl, a wonderful tale about the woman who inspired the Brothers Grimm.

Bitter Greens - UK cover
In Bitter Greens the reader is transported to the court of the Sun King via an austere nunnery were mouthy young courtesans are sent to rot. While here we begin to hear the older story of Margherita, a beautiful young red-haired girl who has been promised to a witch and who winds up imprisoned in a high tower with nothing to do but brush her beautiful hair as it gets longer and longer. You know the rest....

Or do you? This is a big book, and Forsyth has filled it with page-turning action and lots of lovely detail. I wasn't bored for a single minute, and gloried in her use of language. The novel is both sophisticated and couched in a wonderfully unpretentious idiom, and her use of plot is quite brilliant and deliciously old-fashioned.

If you've ever felt you had a past life in a Renaissance nunnery then Bitter Greens is the book for you, and it is for these scenes alone that the book is worth buying. This is fantastic escapism wrapped  up in a mysterious story laced with so many layers of meaning and intrigue. Forsyth is in fact an academic in the field of fairytale and folklore, but she wears her learning lightly, turning it into rich, fascinating and intriguing detail.

I can promise that you will absolutely love Bitter Greens. But be warned - it's addictive!

Let us know if you enjoy this review - or Kate Forsyth's writing. Your comments are always welcome. This is a book club as well as a book journal, and we treasure your comments and responses. You can easily post your comments below. If you don't have a Google email, just use "Anonymous" (and do put your name in the text box if you would like to). Follow the “captcha” instructions noting that it’s always two "words" with a space between. This will save us from spammers. Should be easy! To purchase Bitter Greens, or any book we are recommending or you are seeking, visit our bookstore links (above right). The small % returned to us supports the Universal Heart Book Club. As do your visits and engagement!

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