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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.


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

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 1, 2013

    Vintage Australia

    576 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    March 20, 2012

    RHA eBooks Adult

    576 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Kate Forsyth

Beauty in Thorns
The Beast's Garden
Dancing on Knives
The Wild Girl
Rhiannon's Ride 3: The Heart Of Stars
Rhiannon's Ride 2: The Shining City
Rhiannon's Ride 1: The Tower Of Ravens
The Fathomless Caves
The Skull of the World
The Forbidden Land
The Cursed Towers
The Pool of Two Moons


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Best Laid Plans
Fool Me Once
The Golden House
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Girls
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
The Trip of a Lifetime
The Light Between Oceans
Ready Player One