Wednesday 10 October 2018

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi @fjakobi @wnbooks #Bitter

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.
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? And how far will she go to find out? 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.

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi was published in paperback by W&N Books on 4 October 2018 and is the author's debut novel.

Oh my goodness! What an absolute treat this story is. I was lucky enough to have the time to sit down (by the pool in Rhodes) and read this from cover to cover, almost non-stop. The writing, the characters and the beautifully told story swept me up, away from the blue skies of Rhodes, and back to 1960s London and before.

Bitter hits every single one of my must-reads. An incredibly well-drawn, flawed female lead character; a 1960s setting and an unsettling yet realistic family dynamic.

The reader meets Gilda in 1969, her only son Reuben is getting married to Alice; a pretty, delicate blonde girl who Reuben says showed him how to love.  Gilda is bitter and jealous, and sad and beginning to get obsessed. She begins to stalk Alice; accidentally bumping into her on the street, watching her in the hair salon, hiding behind a pillar as Alice works at a beauty counter.
Gilda wants nothing more than to be part of Reuben and Alice's life, but Reuben only remembers the mother who abandoned him when he was just a small boy.

Whilst there is no doubt that Gilda is disturbed and flawed and unpredictable, this incredibly clever author allows the reader to care for her. We learn her early story as the daughter of a rich Jewish family in 1920s Germany, to when she was bundled off to boarding school in England after witnessing her father's indiscretions. Life at the English boarding school was hard for Gilda, and it is only Margo, her one  friend who keeps her from going under.

Margo is a permanent fixture throughout the story, and this friendship between two very different, but equally damaged women is beautiful. That total ease that comes from a lifetime friendship is brilliantly portrayed, I think most readers will wish that they had a Margo in their life.

As the reader learns more about Gilda's life; her two marriages, her relationship with her husbands, her son, her sister and her parents, it becomes clear how she became the character that she is today. There's such a subtle sadness that runs through her life, she's vulnerable but weak and makes many decision that have far-reaching consequences.

Francesca Jakobi writes with precision and so lyrically. Bitter is deeply moving and so very wise. I absolutely adored it and can't wait to find out what this very talented author does next.

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.

Find out more at
Twitter @fjakobi

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