I saw Kate Forsyth speak at last year’s Genrecon, and I was captivated by the panel’s opinions on modern-day retellings of fairy tales and of the ways the tales are told have changed since the violent and sexually-charged tellings that were first set down.
Bitter Greens is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, entwined with the stories of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the French noblewoman who, while forced into exile in a convent, first set down the version of Rapunzel we now know, Petrosinella, and with the story of Selena Leonelli, one of Titian’s muses, as a witch who is terrified of aging.
I loved this novel, combining as it did a strong understanding of history, both of the court of the Sun King (Louis XIV) and of Venice (I’m actually in the middle of a history of Venice, Venice: Pure City, by Peter Ackroyd, quite accidentally, which made Bitter Greens even more enthralling.)
It’s a story (or three) of love, and rejection, and power, and a thousand other things – the characters are brilliantly entangled, like Petrosinella’s hair, and the magic is different (to me, at least) and utterly believable, and the prose is delightful.
A fantastic novel, and by an Australian, too.
Pick it up.
“You should put a lock on that tongue of yours. It’s long enough and sharp enough to slit your own throat,’ our guardian warned me, the night before I left home to go to the royal court at Versailles…
I just laughed. ‘Don’t you know a woman’s tongue is her sword? You wouldn’t want me to let my only weapon rust, would you?”