Bitter Greens
Monday, 04 June 2012 15:24

Bitter Greens combines history and fantasy in three intertwined narratives: the story of Rapunzel, the witch who imprisoned her and the 17th century Frenchwoman who first penned the fairytale.

It weaves themes of desire, obsession, magic and the redemptive power of love into a grittier world where rape, plague, superstition and the slaughter of the Huguenots (French Protestants) are unflinchingly examined.

Crisscrossing Italy and France over 200 years, Forsyth has crafted the story in such a way that the extensive historical details add richness and humour to the narrative, when they could so easily stultify it.

However, at over 550 pages, the constant onslaught of violence and injustice coupled with the disjointed narrative begins to have a dissociative effect.

One of the narrators, Charlotte-Rose, extols the virtues of a vivid tale told "with the drama and simplicity of a true storyteller", and at its best, Bitter Greens exhibits these same characteristics.

From keen, spare observations of people to unexpected but restrained turns of violence (a child proffers her hand to a stranger and the tip of her finger is bitten off) and explicit, tightly wound sexual encounters, Forsyth is at her most surprising and powerful in her brevity.

Kate Forsyth is currently undertaking a Doctor of Creative Arts at UTS. She is a bestselling and award-winning author of more than 20 books, ranging from picture books to poetry and novels for children and adults.