> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 1 March 2013
  • ISBN: 9781741668483
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $24.99

Bitter Greens

A lovely stew of sex, fairytales and, well, sex really. THE AGE. An exquisite rendering of the story behind the Rapunzel fairy tale.

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 ...

After Margherita's father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress 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 girl.

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.

Locked away in a tower, growing to womanhood, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does ...

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.

  • Pub date: 1 March 2013
  • ISBN: 9781741668483
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $24.99

About the Author

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and has since sold more than a million copies around the world. Her books include Bitter Greens, a retelling of Rapunzel which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm Brothers’ famous fairy tales, which was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013; and The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany. Recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 15 Novelists, Kate Forsyth has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation’. She has a BA in literature, a MA in creative writing and a doctorate in fairy tale studies, and is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers. Read more about her at www.kateforsyth.com.au

Also by Kate Forsyth

See all

Praise for Bitter Greens

“Captivating marriage of history and folklore featuring characters true to their time periods, yet timeless in their dreams and desires.”

2015 Judges, American Library Association

“A lovely stew of sex, fairytales and, well, sex really. Forsyth does a masterly job in controlling her story of of lesbian nuns, witches and palace intrigues. Telling the story of Rapunzel and its attendant themes from several viewpoints, she has created a darkly compelling novel, which simply seethes with sex scenes.”

Dianne Dempsey, The Age

“Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable.”

Juliet Marillier

“Surrender yourself to a master storyteller ... Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement.”

Susan Vreeland

“Kate Forsyth's love of language, history and storytelling is evident in Bitter Greens, a magnificent reworking of the fairytale Rapunzel.This is much more than a historical romance - it is a story that celebrates women throughout the ages who have refused to be bound by the trappings of their era. Forsyth has an extraordinary imagination and has created something deliciously new out of an old favourite.”

Bec Kavanagh, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

“Bitter Greens is one of those rare and delightful books that transcends genre, truly original in scope and invention and showing a writer in mature and full command of her material.”

Jean Bedford, The Newtown Review of Books

“This book, which follows three women – Charlotte-Rose, the witch or La Strega, and young Margherita, the girl who is imprisoned in a tower on the Rock of Manerba – is astonishing in its richness and detail. Interwoven with history, fantasy, breathtaking romance and magic, I became as bewitched as Petrosinella at the raw beauty of Bitter Greens. Kate Forsyth travelled to Paris, Gascony, Venice and the Italian Lakes in search of inspiration for this novel, and she found it. The depth and scope of the research she undertook to pen this tome is quite mind-boggling and it’s clear this author – who is currently completing a doctorate in fairytale retellings – has an abiding passion for history and magic – a delicious and palpable combination. Set over 200 years, this is a story of love at its outer reaches. It is a story of the power within – of woeful failure and glorious achievement. It is resplendent with human frailty, cruelty and beauty. If books were the notes of a violin, Bitter Greens would be the highest soaring note – the one that brings goosebumps to the skin and swells the heart with passion. Forsyth’s language and skill for visual and emotional evocation is truly divine – and her cast of characters – both real and imagined – is like manna from heaven. It is an indulgent pleasure to read her beautifully-crafted words, and to be swept into another time and place – so willingly.”

Tania McCartney, Australian Women Online

“Kate Forsyth has found a stash somewhere of just such live, enterprising threads. Her new book for adult readers, Bitter Greens, is a turf-to-tower-window braid of live, red-gold hair. It's a big, glorious read, full of love, lust, pain, politics, blood red and blue, and some of the best frocks and the worst fleas ever.”

Margo Lanagan, Australian Women Writers

“A must for all lovers of historical fiction - Philippa Gregory watch out!”

Pamela Freeman

“Skilfully weaving a delicious, disturbing braid of richly multi-coloured story, Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens grippingly brings to life a world of magic, corruption, cruelty, and love, spanning two centuries and three very different main characters. Evoking the thrilling and terrifying atmosphere of the Sun-King's court through the eyes of clever, wild French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force, whose noble birth does not protect her from the risks she takes daily, the novel also plunges the reader into the fascinating and sinister world of the Venetian courtesan Selena Leonelli and the sad, lonely life of her young prisoner, Margherita, shut up in a tower. Each of these very different women has been hurt by the past; each is striving to make a place for herself in a dangerous time; but it is the telling of the tale of Margherita, the youngest and sweetest, which will change everything for desperate Charlotte and cruel Selena, giving them both another chance, two hundred years apart...”

Sophie Masson

“The stories of Charlotte-Rose, Margherita and Selena are skilfully woven together to create a captivating blend of history and fantasy. Highly recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory and Juliet Marillier, Bitter Greens is a tale of romance and intrigue, seduction and superstition, obsession and betrayal and… I could keep going forever. This book really has a little bit of everything and more besides. It’s a fairytale for grown-ups, a lavish three-course meal for the imagination.”

Sarah McDuling, Booktopia Blog

“The language in Bitter Greens is decadent and fits perfectly with the passionate characters and lush settings. This is much more than a historical romance - it is a story that celebrates women throughout the ages who have refused to be bound by the trappings of their era. Forsyth has an extraordinary imagination and has created something deliciously new out of an old favourite.”

Bec Kavanagh, Australian Bookseller & Publisher

“A stunning read, beautifully written. It's entertaining on an adult level but also a delight for the child within, with its classic fairytale. Definitely a must for those cooler nights, rugged up on the couch with a hot chocolate!”

Take 5 Magazine

“I am hooked on the complexity and compelling tension of stories told within stories, as Forsyth has done in this novel.In Bitter Greens Kate Forsyth delivers a tale of beauty, strength and gravity. Her fierce respect for the art and power of storytelling shines through every page. You do not need to be a fan of the fantasy genre to enjoy this novel. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction will fall in love with Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens, a five star read.”

Booklover Book Reviews

“A sumptuous tale combining lust, witchcraft and history, this thick tome is never heavy-going. Rather, it's delightful escapism rich in detail.”

Caroline Gardam, Daily Telegraph, Sydney

“Bitter Greens is written lushly.”

Christine Cremen, Sydney Morning Herald

Related titles