Bitter by Francesca Jakobi 

Source: NetGalley

Publishing date: 8th March 2018 (UK)

Links: goodreads | amazon | twitter 


How far will a mother go to win back the son she walked out on? A darkly compelling novel perfect for fans of Zoe Heller, Harriet Lane and Louise Doughty.

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.

My review:

Set in 1969 Bitter follows the story of Gilda, a 52-year old woman, twice-divorced and lonely in London. Following her only son’s wedding Gilda is plagued by memories of her past, and feelings of guilt for being a terrible mother, and her desperate attempts to make amends. 

What I loved about this? 

Voice, voice, voice. Narrated in first-person by Gilda what gripped me from the opening line was her voice. It’s sharp and fierce, but as the story goes on you start to see cracks and catch glimpses of Gilda’s loneliness and melancholy. It’s raw and intense, but so emotionally engaging.

Plot and structure. I found Bitter incredibly pacy and well-plotted. Jakobi wonderfully balances the shifts in narratives through short, alternating chapters and, personally for me it didn’t waver in tension nor did I find myself, as can often be the case, preferring one narrative over the others. 

Overall – I loved this book. I found the characters and premise so fresh and different. Stories about ‘terrible’ mothers is hardly written about, and I found this to be such an honest read about a flawed woman trying to redeem herself. Reminiscent of the works of Jean Rhys, Zoe Heller, and Patricia Highsmith Bitter is an unflinching and searing portrait of motherhood, love and envy. 5/5 


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