From the compelling cover to the last page, this book is a delight. As the author herself said, it is a novel of love, black magic, history, and fairy tales. It takes a quick mind and a talented writer to blend all those elements together seemingly effortlessly. Kate has done it.
This is the story of French writer Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force who lived from 1650 until 1724. Many of those years were spent at the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, of France. She thought she was secure there, but alas, her sharp tongue and wicked wit, along with several indiscretions true or alleged, finally displeased the king and he sent her to a nunnery, the abbey of Gercy-en-Brie.
In telling Charlotte-Rose de la Force's story, the author indroduces us to other strong, intriguing women. Most noteworthy were the courtesan sorceress, 'La Strega Bella' (The Beautiful Witch) Selena Leonelli, and Rapunzel, she of the long hair, fairy tale tower fame.
What, one might ask, does Rapunzel have in common with a member of the Sun King's court. You will have to read Bitter Greens for yourself to find the answer and it is a real, tangible connection.
The book is beautifully written, full of in-depth descriptions. It is not a quick, nor particularly easy read, but it is well worth the time and any effort it may take. Get to know Charlotte-Rose, Selena, Margherita, and even Rapunzel.
As with most fairy tales, there is a message within the writing. The message is that when oppressed through forces they cannot control, women, and men, too, I would think, must look within to find their survival. Charlotte-Rose found her escape; a doorway that would allow her entrance to many worlds. In times of trouble, when she needed to escape, she would walk through that door to fairyland and remain there as long as possible. She explained her means of survival to her abused friend, the Dauphin, telling him that it did not matter how hard she was beaten, or how cold and dark her place of punish, she was always able to escape through her doorway and be somewhere else. I have always wondered if I could withstand severe punishment or banishment by using such a means of escape. I'm not sure I could, but Charlotte-Rose could and did.
For a totally different, enthralling read, pick up a copy of Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens.