Bitter

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Member Reviews

A strangely unsettling read. Beautifully written but rather unnerving. Gilda is - in the 'now' of the book, 1969 - a middle aged woman, but the book moves between her present and her history, as a Jewish immigrant escaping Nazi Germany to settle in a not-very-welcoming (plus ca change) England, It's a book you can never really quite "enjoy" but is absorbing and unsetling and stays in the memory for a long time.
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This book sat on my TBR pile for far too long. Totally not what I expected in the best possible way as I was totally enchanted by this story from start to finish. A beautifully written story that tugs at your heart as you feel Gildas hurt and loneliness.
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What a powerful, extraordinary and perceptive novel. Gilda is the main character. She has a jaundiced perspective on life and the people around her. You reap what you sow in life is the message here, and many of Gilda’s woes are self-inflicted. She’s the pain in the proverbial type of person. She struggles to see the best in people and is super-critical of everything. As the plot unfolds, there are underlying signs of acute loneliness, insecurity and vulnerability which makes your empathy wobble precariously when you recognise that she’s also a snoop, a stalker and has an unhealthy obsession about two people in her life. The novel reveals an exceptional power of observation of people with their quirks, mannerisms, habits, unspoken thoughts and hopes. There is a lot of wit and humour included. It intrigued me beyond measure how far she was prepared to go to secure the love and gratification she sought. I heard myself gasp a few times at her flagrant audacity and her lack of remorse at her bizarre actions. Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Books for an ARC.
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Divorcee Gilda feels cut out of her son's life after he marries, so she resorts to stalking him and his new wife.  Literary novel set in the 1960s which is surprisingly moving and a beautiful study of character.
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Bitter is the story of a German Jewish woman and her troubled life, from her girlhood in an English boarding school in the 1930s, to an arranged marriage to her father's business associate, motherhood and divorce.  This is a thoughtfully written novel with a strong sense of time and place.
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I adored this book. It's the best one I've read for ages and I don't think anything can top it! I loved the characters and loved the fact it was based on truth. I wanted to read on and on.
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As someone who thinks that likeability is a much overrated quality in a protagonist (particularly a female one) Bitter is a joy to read.

It is 1969. Gilda Meyer’s son, Reuben, is getting married to Alice, a blonde, petite Gentile – a woman who is everything Gilda is not. Gilda feels ill at ease at the wedding (she wore white and the dress was too tight) and finds fault with everyone there.

Reuben grew up with his father after their divorce and she has never been close to her son. When he looks at Alice, Gilda sees a side he has never shown her – one that is warm and loving.

Gilda becomes increasingly obsessed with Reuben and Alice, and her behaviour as a result is both comical and disturbing.

Gilda’s ‘present’ is interspersed with her memories of the past, from her affluent but unloving childhood in Hamburg, to her abrupt move to London and her marriage. She says at one point she feels guilty because she hasn’t suffered as a German Jew in the way people expect, she can’t tell them the stories they want to hear. Her unhappiness is small, domestic. Even in this she is someone who doesn’t quite fit.

One of the beauties of the first-person narration is that we are in thrall to Gilda’s voice. (And it’s a wonderful voice, the prose is so crisp and clear you hardly feel you’re reading at all.) We are left in some uncertainty about, for example, whether Reuben is indeed blameless for the difficulties in their relationship.

It also makes us complicit. Gilda does some shocking things but we are so wrapped up in her reasoning we don’t just sympathise, we want her to win through. We can also laugh at her sly barbs even as we know they’re unkind.

One of the most moving elements of the book for me was Gilda’s friendship with Margo. They were brought together at school by their shared unpopularity, but somehow the bond has endured. Gilda is frequently dismissive, and at times you think they are united only by expediency. Gilda exploits Margo’s kindness, but at the same time, Margo has a strength and self-sufficiency that shines through. (Gilda’s tone-deafness to Margo’s private life is also nicely done.)

The other significant woman is of course Alice, who has many of the qualities expected of a woman and a wife which Gilda lacks – her looks, her culinary skills, her willingness to please. She not only has the love of Reuben, which Gilda longs for, but she embodies everything that Gilda has failed to be.

The title of the book comes from the nickname foisted on Gilda at her British boarding school when one day she inadvertently said the German ‘bitte’ instead of ‘please’. This duality sums up Gilda. She repels people with her sharpness while desperately longing for them to come close.

Is she an unpleasant individual, a victim of circumstance, or a woman being punished for choosing her own path? I’m still wondering about Gilda, even now. A book to savour.
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Read this in three days & found it quite different from my usual books, very readable, with short chapters that held my interest. 

Such a complicated set of main characters, alongside descriptive writing. My feelings towards Gilda kept shifting throughout but on the whole I would recommend this book.
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At first I wasnt sure about this book,however I am glad I stuck through it. If you are looking for a story with lots of twists and turna than this is not the right book. It is purely a emotional tale of a women coming to terms with her emotions and past while hoping to be the mother she knows she should be.5 stars from me.
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It's so hard to believe this book is a debut novel, the characters are so vividly and wonderfully drawn, it's totally compelling, engaging, perfectly paced and beautifully written - I was loath to put it down.

A story of obsession, dysfunctional relationships and manipulation, of the best and worst of parenting - it's a mesmerising read, heartbreaking at times yet there is love and friendship and humour - As her story unfolded I grew to understand and love Gilda almost as much as I hated her parents. 

An unreserved 5 stars - really looking forward to reading more from this author!
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I enjoyed this well enough.  I found the character portraits very interesting, as well as the cultural details.
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An interesting and troubling debut about a mother’s love for her son and her own unresolved issues. This is historical fiction set in 1969, but strangely Gilda and her story seem very modern.

The writing and plot are well done, it’s structured effectively and clearly has been edited well. However this story bothered me as I left feeling no connection with the characters and that makes it difficult to care or even want to finish they’re journey.

I had to force myself to finish this and tbh it wasn’t spectacular. Middle of the road debut.
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This is the story of Gilda - and her love for her son, Reuben. A love who she walked on when he was a child but now loves to the point of obsession and seeks out every opportunity to reconnect with Reuben and make up for her past mistakes in life.
Unfortunately Reuben is about to marry Alice which sends Gilda into a downward spiral of jealousy, obsession and destruction - fuelled also in part by alcohol.
As the story continues we learn more about Gilda's background which will provoke sympathy in even the hardest of hearts.
I believe this a debut novel and it is an excellent and heartbreaking one at that - so wonderfully written and stayed in my mind long after the final chapter. Beautiful!
5 well deserved stars and huge thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.
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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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The story of Gilda is set in three timelines, as a child in 1920's Germany to an English boarding school and on to marriage and motherhood. The title Bitter could not be more appropriate, Gilda's obsession with her son is uncomfortable, quite sad and at times frustrating. When Reuben goes on to marry, Gilda's contempt goes up another gear. The book is creepy at times but full of suspense throughout. A reminder that even intensely flawed characters can take an emotional hold on the reader.
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I like an unlikeable character and Gilda is a perfect example. Unsympathetic at the start, the novel twists the reader's judgement of a 'bad mother' to breaking point; heart-breaking point. A novel about very human mistakes and the true depth of a mother's love.
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It's 1969 and Gilda's son is getting married. His wife to be Alice is a petite blonde and pretty girl who makes Gilda feel inadequate. Her son's besotted with his new wife and Gilda becomes obsessed with her following her when she's out shopping, at work or at the hairdressers. She loves when they randomly bump into each other and Alice makes a fuss of her.

Young Gilda witnessed something she shouldn't have seen and her father banished her from the family home in Germany to boarding school in England where she just can't fit in. She had one friend, the loyal Margo who has stuck by her through thick and thin, all through the years and during her arranged marriage to Frank who she never loved although he is Reuben's father and her subsequent stormy and passionate marriage to Leo.

Frank and his second wife Berta make it difficult for Gilda to spend quality time with her son which makes her more of a stranger to him. All she really wants is her son to love her and for her to feel part of a family. I liked how Gilda turns things around and gains confidence in who she is. and realises what a good and faithful friend Margo is.

A stunning first novel which I absolutely loved.
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Wow what a great debut novel, highly recommend
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
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Book Description: 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 Ruben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Ruben 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.

With short sharp chapters this book flies the reader through the life of Gilda a much flawed and lonely woman in her 50’s.

It takes us, very movingly, through her life from 1920’s Germany, to an English boarding school then marriage and the mistakes and decisions she makes over the next 30 years.

The story starts at the marriage of her only son Ruben to a girl called Alice. At the wedding Ruben calls Alice the person who taught him how to love, opening a floodgate of emotions for Gilda that prompts her into a dangerous and alarming obsession. This leads to her stalking the woman in a desperate attempt to try to be a part of her son and daughter in laws life.

The character of Gilda had me moving from dislike, to anger, to pity as her story unfolded, which it quite literally does as you read, but equally also for Ruben, even though he is one of the ones who has suffered from her actions.

I loved the character of Alice and also of Gilda’s friend Margo who sees through all of Gilda’s lies and fibs, yet never calls her up on them because of their shared past but also for her unmoving love for Gilda.

I found this an addictive read that I couldn’t put down even when at the beginning I wasn’t warming to Gilda at all, I needed to know if she would change.
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I was sent an uncorrected manuscript proof of Bitter by Francesca Jakobi to read and review by NetGalley.
Bitter by name bitter by nature!  This book certainly lives up to its title.  While the novel is easy to read I did find it difficult to relax into it as the said bitterness was all consuming and very draining.  The continuous carping and self-pity of protagonist Gilda made it very hard to empathise with her, especially as she was a woman used to such privilege and status.  The book was quite cleverly set out, sliding between the past and present, although I would have preferred a little more definition between each section - rather than a paragraph from one era changing immediately to one of another (this may of course have changed by publication).  Bitter is an exploration of how our experiences and how we treat each other fundamentally affect our psyche and our relationships.  Insightful but very bitter!
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