A Rapunzel far more Grimm than Tangled.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is the braided tale of three women’s lives, wound around the structure of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Three different women locked in three different versions of a tower, finding themselves there because of others’ actions. Imprisonment, violation, escape, and salvation play out again and again against a backdrop of Renaissance Italy and Rococo-era France.
This novel offers three (or more, depending on your interpretation) strong female characters at its core. Their stories are masterfully intertwined with Forsyth’s intimate knowledge of the culture, history, and languages of France and Italy. Each of the characters suffers every horror unique to the lives of women at the time and in general, without the whole affair turning into some kind of penny-dreadful. The narrative winds between all three women in a way that is never confusing, in fact it seems to make perfect sense. Famous historical figures appear, but Forsyth never overdoes it. The Sun King is a character is Charlotte’s tale, not an encyclopedia entry. The same goes for the painter Titian and La Bella Strega. The author has woven a magnificent tapestry with the delicate handling of too many plot threads to count. It’s astonishing to behold.
All of the elements of the core fairy tale are here: a witch with rampion in the garden, a prince blinded by thorns, hair tumbling from a high tower window that it might be scaled…but the pieces have been joined in ways that seems perfectly natural. Only slightly removed from reality.
If you like France or Italy, sumptuous food or the idea of life at court, music or art or fairy tales…even black magic…this book is for you!