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text 2016-09-01 19:19
September's Reading List
The First Man in Rome - Colleen McCullough
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles - Margaret George
The Courts of Love - Jean Plaidy
Bundori - Laura Joh Rowland
The Divine Sacrifice - Tony Hays
Semper Fidelis - Ruth Downie
The Wild Girl - Kate Forsyth

September's reading list will more than likely be a short one. I currently have three books started. These three books combined are over 2,500 pages. Combine that with my children all starting school and me starting work full-time again, September might not be a great month for reading. 


Have no fear! Even if I get little reading done in September, I know that winter in Minnesota is coming. Winter = lots of tea. Lots of tea = lots of reading. 

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text 2016-03-29 14:22
The Big Idea: Kate Forsyth

(reblogged from Whatever)




Fairy tales have the power to amaze and entrance, not only for the fantastical elements they carry, but for what of ourselves we can see within them. Author Kate Forsyth has an attachment a particular fairy tale, as the title of her non-fiction book The Rebirth of Rapunzel suggests, and it’s an attachment that has its roots in something that happened well before she could read the tale itself.




Fairy tales have been with us for a very long time.


Ever since humans invented language, we have used those sounds laden with meaning to create stories – to teach, to warn, to entertain, and to effect change upon the world.

Those stories have been handed down through many generations – changing with each retelling, but still carrying within them the same wisdom and transformative power that has helped shape the human psyche.


And there’s no sign of fairy tales falling out of favour any time soon. They are everywhere in popular culture, inspiring TV shows and art installations, poems and advertising campaigns, fashion shows and ballets and comics and, most successfully of all, films.


I have been fascinated with fairy tales ever since I was first given a red leather-bound copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was just seven years old. Of all the stories of beauty and peril and adventure within its pages, it was the story of ‘Rapunzel’ that resonated with me most powerfully.


To understand why, I need to take you far back into my own childhood.


Read the rest of the post here.

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review 2015-07-26 00:00
Bitter Greens
Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth Nice mix of fairytale and historical fiction. This book tells the stories of three women, all unwilling to be meek and obliging as their societies or their guardians demand, and of how they strive to achieve agency and love.
In the best tradition of modern fairytale retellings the story is dark, angsty and, as you can imagine, the Rapunzel’s tale here is not after its bowdlerized version. The “bitter” part of the book's title is not just for decoration, either: there is physical and psychological violence aplenty (never too graphic), particularly against women. Consequently, although the book is nicely written and the story is interesting, some concepts were somehow uncomfortable.

What I liked is that the book is a page-turner, the story flows smoothly and the author did surely research the historical and geographical background, as stated in the acknowledgements. I was sold on the idea of a writer and her creation sharing the same pages and along with the motif of women and agency there are several other thought-provoking themes, like the terror of dying, of being forgotten, of not being loved.

This entanglement between the Rapunzel tale and its writer’s is very original but I failed to perceive the plotlines as a whole because they follow the life of truly different women. I think this very mingling of historical events and characters with magic and legends is both an asset and a liability since there are, as is appropriate, distinct kinds of storytelling involved and I don’t think the delivery of a cohesive picture succeeded.

The story which is the trait d'union between Charlotte-Rose de La Force and Rapunzel was very engrossing and my favorite part. All the protagonists are women who act consistently with the limits of their experiences and circumstances, they are not passive nor Mary Sues, and it felt quite accurate considering that, with different degrees of freedom granted by wealth and birth, only a few “safe” options were open to women of such centuries. The novel narrows them down to three and I find them reductive, howbeit probably not that far off the historical mark.

Unfortunately the shifting viewpoints and storytelling styles devised to fit both the fairytale and the historical fiction plots contributed to my detachment. Also, while I never disliked any of the protagonists I never felt involved but with one of them, and only in part: all the women here are totally ruled by emotion and not an ounce of logic. Moreover, my modern mind rooted in human rights and gender equality was kind of taxed trying to immerse in the thoughts (not actions) of the protagonists or to partake of their beliefs and cultures as presented in the narrative. On top of that a few plot holes and the rushed ending of one of the protagonists’ stories left me a bit perplexed, given the general quality of the book.
I know I’m being vague but my points strictly relate to the plot and the narration devices, I cannot say any more without spoiling.

Bottom line: this story didn’t work for me but I liked the idea.

There are only three choices for women in this world that we live in. You can be a nun, or a wife, or a whore.
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review 2015-07-14 17:45
The Wild Girl - Kate Forsyth

Full review here. Who told the first fairy tales?


Forsyth's novel represents what I love about historical fiction: it presents something many might have fuzzy familiarity with in a vibrant manner with people who stay in the mind well after the book has ended.


In her opening note, Forsyth reminds (or in my case, educates) the reader as to precisely when the Grimm Brothers collected their stories. Not medieval scholars in musty robes, to paraphrase her, but handsome young men writing in the same era as Austen and Byron. That was eye-opening. Locational awareness secondly was a surprise: the Grimm brothers did their collecting as Germany was facing Napoleon's relentless march toward a unified empire. While never explicitly named in the text, the Grimm brothers were doing a little cultural conservation in the face of French domination.


Forsyth also rather daringly imagines why Dortchen, our heroine, takes so long to end up with the Grimm brother of her choice. It worked for me although was very upsetting -- but it also has a kind of fairy tale-ish grime to it, too -- I kept waiting for magic beans or a fairy godmother to solve things.

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review 2015-05-09 00:00
Bitter Greens
Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth Braids together the tales of French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a young girl with burnished red hair named Margherita, and the witch who holds her captive. Bitter Greens is a historical fiction cum fairytale retelling of Rapunzel, and it is richly woven together with attention to detail and beautiful prose. I found it a little wearing after a while, but I don’t often have the patience for historical fiction. Either way, I truly enjoyed it and am glad to have read it.
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