BITTER GREENS has won the American Library Association (ALA) Award for Best Historical Novel.

 It was also chosen as one of the Best Historical Novels of 2014 by the Library Journal in the US, and was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Norma K. Hemming Award (for which it received an Honourable Mention). 

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 1513 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-one 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 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.

Check out my Pinterest page to see my visual inspiration for Bitter Greens, or to see Titian’s many paintings of his muse, or to see as many beautiful Rapunzel paintings and illustrations that I could find.

Want to know the story behind the story? Check out my blogs on the inspirations and challenges of writing Bitter Greens


‘The best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter.’ Kim Wilkins, author of Angel of Ruin and The Autumn Castle

“Kate Forsyth could quite possibly be one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’ Hook of A Book

“Bitter Greens is a masterpiece.” The Wormhole

‘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.’ Booklover Book Reviews

‘History and fairytale are richly entwined in this spellbinding story. Unputdownable!’ Juliet Marillier, author of Daughter of the Forest and Heart’s Blood

‘A must for all lovers of historical fiction. Philippa Gregory, watch out!’ Pamela Freeman, author of The Black Dress (winner of the 2006 NSW History Prize)

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.” C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

“Whether you love fairy tale retellings, historical fiction or both, this is exceptional storytelling and I highly recommend BITTER GREENS!” Historical Tapestry

‘An enchanting retelling of Rapunzel … I cannot get over how overwhelming and beautifully written this book is … I am adding it to the top of my best reads of the year.’ Read, Write & Read Some More

“Kate Forsyth is one of the most wonderful storytellers I’ve come across – everything from the decadence of Versailles to the stink of Venice was written so vividly.” Broke and the Bookish

“Skilfully weaving a delicious, disturbing, multi-coloured story, Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens grippingly brings to life a world of magic, corruption, cruelty, and love.’ Sophie Masson, author of Moonlight and Ashes

‘One of the best books I’ve read this year … a tale of romance and intrigue, seduction and superstition, obsession and betrayal … a lavish three-course meal for the imagination.’ Booktopia

‘Bitter Greens … a rich and lively story, presenting historical realities that seem fantastical, and fantastical elements that feel real.’ Margo Lanagan, three times winner of the World Fantasy Award

‘A magnificent reworking of the fairytale, Rapunzel … Forsyth has an extraordinary imagination and has created something deliciously new out of an old favourite.’ Bec Kavanagh, Australian Bookseller & Publisher

‘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.’ Australian Women Online

‘Seductively good story-telling.’ Brona’s Books

‘A marvellous tale and a must-read!’ Sharon Rundle

‘(Bitter Greens) is the best historical fiction work I’ve read in a long time … glorious.’ Rachael McDiarmid