It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her. Yet she hopes desperately they can mend their shattered relationship.
When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .
Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.
Gilda Myer’s mistakes have haunted her for decades. They’ve stilted her choices and sculpted the relationship between herself and son Reuben into a poor imitation of what it once was. Now, as he marries his new bride, Alice, she sees a new side to her son. A man who is not withdrawn but glowing with happiness and warmth. A side he has kept from her for years despite her attempts to breach his walls. Filled with jealousy, Gilda slowly infiltrates their new life, studying his new bride, following her, using snatches of her appearance and personality to remake herself. A transformation into a new woman. A better mother. Because surely she deserves some of Reuben’s affection? Surely she can tap into that reservoir of love? She is his mother after all. As Gilda’s shocking obsession gains momentum, the secrets of her past threaten to crack her fragile existence and rain down a truth that could alter everything.
Gilda is such a fascinating character. Before she was sent away to boarding school in England, her childhood was afflicted with woe. From her mother she barely received a scrap of affection, from her father the absence of a single kind word and from her sister, a torrent of sarcasm and disdain. And when she became a mother herself, a string of events scorched a line of fear through her heart. What if she accidentally hurt her son? What if she did something wrong? What if she didn’t raise him well? As Reuben grows, “nanny” is a word that falls from his lips quicker than “mother“. It is her hand he reaches for, her attention he craves, her love he blooms under. Suddenly Gilda is a wallflower to the life of her son. Although her obsession over Alice was extremely creepy to read and she is a very selfish, unnerving character, it was her other side, the loving side, that left an impression on me.
Bitter is a wonderful, wonderful book. It has a rich, thought-provoking story, striking characters and a voice that rings through your days even after you’ve finished the book. Francesca Jacobi’s writing is stunning. Her portrayal of heartbreak will hit a cord with a lot of readers, as will her descriptions of life and love. I adored this book! Gilda and her story will stay with me for a long time to come.
Bitter is a story of a mother’s imperishable love for her son and her quest to bridge the trauma of the past with the hope of a better future. A beautiful, visceral book that will storm your heart! Fully recommend!
Evocative. Heartbreaking. Wonderful.
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About Francesca Jakobi:
Francesca studied psychology at the University of Sussex, followed by a stint teaching English in Turkey and the Czech Republic. On returning to her native London she got a job as a reporter on a local paper and has worked in journalism ever since. She’s currently a layout editor at the Financial Times.
Bitter is her first novel, inspired by her grandmother who was sued for divorce in the 1940s.
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Huge thanks to Jennifer Kerslake for my review copy!