'Bitter by Francesca Jakobi is stormingly good, deliciously addictive, as gripping as Zoe Heller's Notes On A Scandal. It's got to be the beach read of 2018!' - Peter Bradshaw, Guardian Film Critic
'Brilliantly paced, moving, thoughtful and sharp. Loved it.' Renée Knight, author of Disclaimer
'Bitter, yes, but also sweet - and moving, and searching, and quietly devastating: a novel to detonate the heart' A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window
'Gloriously sinister and yet heartbreaking. Brilliant' Nicci Cloke, author of Close Your Eyes
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.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 126 members
This is such a beautiful story and one that was so easy to get into and hard to put down! Gilda is a twice divorced 52 year old living alone. The story opens with her son Reuben's wedding to Alice. Gilda can't understand what he sees in her. You think then this is going to be a book about a jealous mother and her daughter-in-law but it is so much more than that. As Gilda tells her story from her childhood spent in Hamburg at the start of the second world war, her unsupportive parents and sister, her 2 weddings, and the relationship she has with her son from birth you get to see why she feels the way she does. The setting of the 60's in London was quite vivid and well described. I loved it.
BITTER is an emotional minefield of a debut from a writer I expect we will all soon be hearing a lot more about. On the surface, this is the story of Gilda Meyer, a middle-aged train wreck waiting to happen in her newly-married son Ruben's life. The problem, it appears, is that Gilda is jealous of her shiny new daughter-in-law. Why is it Ruben loves this bland, blonde, Alice person, while remaining resolutely indifferent to his own mother? In her quest to find out the answer to this, and more, Gilda begins to 'follow' Alice and to infiltrate her son's marriage in a variety of strange and unsettling ways. Not only is Gilda a crazy stalker-mum, whose behaviour falls well-short of exemplary at every possible turn, she’s a wonderfully prickly piece of work into the bargain. So, while Ruben may not love his mother, the reader quickly does. In this sense, BITTER reminded me of Claire Morrall’s Booker nominated ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’. Like Kitty, Gilda is out there on a limb, actively making own problems explode into other people’s live. But when it’s all done in such a heartbreakingly vulnerable way, what’s not to love? Francesca Jakobi’s prose is exceptionally stylish, with dry, elegant sentences unfurling to reveal all manner of delightful shocks and surprises. Often hilarious, sometimes harrowing, Gilda’s keenly observed worldview is always fascinating. I also loved the way the various time periods (the war, and the 60s) were evoked and it is not hard to imagine BITTER being turned into a mini-series or film. Both Gilda and her daughter-in-law are products/prisoners of their times and yet also examples of how quickly things were changing for women in post-war Britain. There are so many great lines in this novel but I don’t want to spoil anything by quoting them here. However, I will never reach for a rolling pin again without thinking of Gilda and her older sister’s advice. With thanks to the publisher for letting me see an advanced reader’s copy of BITTER in exchange for an honest review.
Readers who love a strong main character will feel for Gilda, the bitter 50 something divorced Jewish mother whose passion is her son, Reuben. When Reuben marries Alice, a sweet young Gentile girl, Gilda cannot understand why he loves her so much and not herself, his mother. Set in London in 1969, Gilda's story is told through flashbacks interspersed with her present day life, jealously stalking Reuben and Alice or complaining to her one long time friend, Margo. Bitter is an exceptional tale of mother/child relationships and how we are treated in our youth affects how we act as adults. One of my favourite books of 2017 was also an unforgettable character and voice, Eleanor Oliphant, and, although Bitter covers a very different life, Gilda will stay in my mind in much the same way Eleanor did. Many thanks to NetGalley and W&N books for the opportunity to read and review Bitter.