BLURB: “Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of Louis XIV, has always been a great teller of tales. Selena Leonelli, once the exquisite muse of the great Venetian artist Titian, is terrified of time. Margherita, trapped in a doorless tower and burdened by tangles of her red-gold hair, must find a way to escape. Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together in a compelling tale of desire, obsession and the redemptive power of love”
REVIEW: I absolutely adored this book. I have previously reviewed one of Forsyth’s other works, ‘The Wild Girl’, on this blog before and had been greatly impressed by it, so I had high expectations of this novel. I was not disappointed. Forsyth has a wonderful ability to weave magic and mystery into her writing with her links to famous fairy tales – in this case, that of Rapunzel – which makes the story familiar to the reader but also gives them something new and interpretative to be amazed by. The interwoven narratives of Charlotte-Rose, Selena and Margherita combine to create a dazzling story of magic and romance, with shocking twists and turns and links that constantly keep the reader guessing. Charlotte-Rose’s tale is dramatic, tragic and sometimes amusing; her life in the court of the Sun King Louis XIV makes for hugely entertaining reading, and Forsyth captures the ever-changing atmosphere of the French court beautifully. Charlotte-Rose’s disasters in love and politics alike make her a very relatable character, though her bold nature at first makes her difficult to warm to. As the reader gets to know Charlotte-Rose, however, and experiences her misfortunes, we grow to be quite fond of her and feel extremely sympathetic during her imprisonment in the Bastille and her later removal to a convent. The character of Selena Leonelli is very similar – initially, and throughout much of the book, she is the villain of the piece due to her kidnap and subsequent imprisonment of the young and vulnerable Margherita. However, once we hear the story of her childhood, her career as a courtesan and her relationship with the painter Titian (who truly seems to come to life in this story), the reader cannot help but reluctantly feel some sympathy for this villain, causing a twist in loyalties that only ever, in my opinion, is caused by the very best of books. Finally, the story of Margherita, a vivid and intricate retelling of the story of ‘Rapunzel’ (originally written by the real Charlotte-Rose de la Force whilst in retirement in a convent) is at once familiar and miles apart from anything I have ever read of the tale before. Margherita’s tale was possibly my favourite of them all – reading it is like revisiting childhood but with none of the gory details being spared. I can understand, after reading this book, why Forsyth has been compared to Angela Carter; her work is mysterious, magical and stays with the reader long after the book has been closed. A fantastic read (did I mention I read it in a matter of hours?! I simply could not put it down!). I look forward to reading Forsyth’s future works.