An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale’s first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.
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…
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, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.
After Margherita’s father steals a handful of parsley, winter cress 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 red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued…
Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.
Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Fairytale retelling
Publisher: Allison & Busby UK
Publication date: February 2013
Hardcover: 491 pages
Rapunzel sings from the Tower '....
in the fire Of sunset,
I behold a face,
Which sometime, if God give me grace,
May kiss me in this very place'
(Rapunzel - William Morris)
Bitter Greens is filled with tales of love, passion, sex, life and death, during the tempestuous times of sixteenth century Italy and seventeenth century France. Although, theses fairy tales are fictitious as far as we know, the storytellers seem to have been real people. It seems, Charlotte-Rose de la Force was indeed a real woman whose story in itself makes for a suspenseful romance filled with violence and revenge. Imprison me in a tower and see how I rebel…I know, I’ll write it all down and use the written word to avenge their blackened souls!
As the case with the character of Selena, I can only guess that she was based upon the woman who turned out to be Tiziano’s real life wife and lover. Her stories of meeting and working with Tiziano are filled with desire and forbidden passion evoking such tenderness and trust between them, I found myself really engaging in their stories. I have travelled extensively throughout Italy and even took two classes while I was there, so reading about Tiziano’s so-called life and love brought back wonderful memories of walking through incense filled churches gazing upon his gorgeous paintings for the first time! The character of Margherita is really found in most of these tales within Bitter Greens more so than the others. I enjoyed reading the tales but couldn’t really connect with her for some reason as much as Charlotte and Selena. She also was locked away in a tower where a Italian witch called, ‘La Strega’ would come to her telling tales. Now if you’re attempting to make the stories more realistic and you are talking about sixteenth century Italy where the belief in the ‘La Strega’ was very real, then her presence is necessary. However, being Italian myself, I do get a bit sensitive to how they are depicted. Culturally, La Strega’s were not witches or old hags, they were peasants and families of travelling gypsies selling wares trying to survive so their families could eat. If you think of the Irish Tinkers than you’ve got the idea!
- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (September 23, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250047536
- ISBN-13: 978-1250047533