Reviews

Bitter – Francesca Jakobi

About the book:

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

About the author: 

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 is 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.

My Review:  I really don’t know how or where to start with this novel.  Bitter is a really dark, emotionally powerful, uncomfortable story about obsession, family, parenting, marriage and  relationships.

Gilda is our narrator.  A 53 year old Jewish mother who is obsessed with her son Reuben and his newly married “shiksa” wife Alice.  The story is set in 1969 in London, but we also alternate to Gilda’s early life pre-war in Germany where she lived with her younger (and favoured) sister and wealthy parents.

It is clear that Gilda is “slightly” unhinged, her obsessions, behaviour and actions speak volumes, but when we learn more about her own upbringing and childhood, it becomes clear why Gilda behaves as she does.

All the characters were so wonderfully crafted and believable that my emotions towards Gilda were so mixed I had to keep reminding myself she was a fictional character, despite reminding me of several older Jewish ladies I know in real life. The relationships between Gilda and her childhood friend Margo was wonderful and their friendship was truly beautiful and touching.

This is a really moving and heart-breaking story about how our childhood and parents can shape our adulthood.  An excellent debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author.

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