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The Beast’s Garden. Kate Forsyth

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The Beast’s Garden
Kate Forsyth
Published: Random House Australia
Date: August 3rd 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 441
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world .’ A retelling of the Grimm’s Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany. It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it. Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance. Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth is a well researched and compelling story, set in Germany just prior to and during the Second World War.  It is more accurately the retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark – a version of Beauty and the Beast.
I wanted to read this book, but held back, a little reluctant to enter again that horrifying era. Like the author my first introduction to it was through The Diary of Anne Frank. However once I opened The Beast’s Garden and started reading I was soon captured by the characters and the plot.  
I found reading a book set within Germany was different, I knew very little about Berlin during that time and the Resistance operations. It was an eye opener for me. Being given a viewpoint from Berlin looking out at the war was thought provoking. The atrocities of the Nazis, the bombing of the city and the desperation of the inhabitants of the city are all experienced through the eyes of Ava, Leo and their friends and families.
Ava is a resilient, courageous character. Her exploits and care for her Jewish friends never wavered. The treatment of the Jews is not glossed over and is often disturbing and real. 
Ava’s love for Leo was real and enduring. Leo was the very antithesis of what I had thought about when I thought of  the German Nazi Officers. He is part of the resistance movement The Red Orchestra, a group that realise that Hitler is evil and mad. They put their lives at risk to try to rid their country of him.
As I read on I couldn’t put the book down. This is a well crafted novel that engaged my mind and emotions. There are some excellent novels written about this time period and this book can hold its place very well among them.
5 stars
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Bitter Greens. Kate Forsyth

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Bitter Greens
Kate Forsyth
Published: Allison & Busby
Date: 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 542
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Own book
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Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of the Sun King Louis XIV, has always been a great teller of tales.

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.

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is an amazing historical novel that tells the story of three women.  It is set in France in the time of the Sun King – the seventeenth century and in Italy in the late sixteenth century.  
Charlotte Rose de la Force born in the south of France finds her way to Louis XIV court where she loves the goings on at court.  Yet the King is capricious and Charlotte Rose is not always safe or her own boss.  There is a hierarchy to be followed, the intrigue and gossip makes it dangerous at times. Charlotte is a Protestant and while the first reign of terror of the Huguenots is over, Louis is a Catholic and ready to continue to wield his power and spread terror among the protestants.  It was sad reading of this time, it made me realise how religion was used in those days to create terror and destruction much as it is today in many parts of the world.  
Selena Leonelli is a woman who makes her way in Italy, partly making her living by posing for and being the muse of the Venetian artist Titian.  She is a great beauty and does not want to die. Her desire to stay a beauty and live for a long time leads her to witchcraft.
Margherita is the beloved daughter of two villagers in Italy, now trapped in a high tower by a woman who visits every full moon and requires her blood.  Her story is recounted to Charlotte Rose when she finds herself in a place she never had any wish to be.  
Charlotte Rose is a courageous and independent woman, at times she might be down but she is never out!  Margherita might be locked in a high tower but she remembers she has parents who love her, despite what the woman who keeps her locked up tells her.  She is resourceful and brave and her story is the retelling of the story that we know as Rapunzel. 
This a very well written book and the research is obvious.  I enjoyed reading the Afterward and learning a little more of how Charlotte Rose lived out her life after the book ends. While this is a novel of the imagination, Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force was an actual person in history. Fascinating.
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings and/or historical fiction then this book is a book that should be at the top of your list to read.
Want to know more – excellent reviews of this book are where I found out about this book.
Bitter Greens review by Shelleyrae at Book’d Out
Bitter Greens review by Teddyree at The Eclectic Reader.
4.5 stars
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