Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Title: Bittersweet
Author: Colleen McCullough
Year Published: 2013

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 376
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map): Australia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book):
 As two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. Although famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, the young women are not enthusiastic about their limited prospects in life at the end of World War I. Each sister has her own dream: Edda wants to be a doctor, Grace wants to marry, Tufts wants never to marry, and Kitty wishes to be known for something other than her beauty.

Together they decide to enroll in a training program for nurses--a new option for women of their time. As the Latimer sisters become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, each must make weighty decisions about love, career, and what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always...bittersweet.

Review: I haven't read a book set in Australia for a long time so this was enjoyable. I also remember watching the mini-series The Thorn Birds when I was young, but never read it. I can totally see this book being made into a mini-series as well. It has that sweeping saga feeling where I just know I would get caught up in the lives of the four women and the setting and costumes would be rich!

The novel is written in the third person, which doesn't always work for me, but because there are four main characters (the two sets of twins), it is helpful to hear the story from all of their points of view as well as the men in their lives. I think that lends to the mini-series feeling.

The Great Depression is something that all Americans know about and have some sense of, but I hadn't ever thought about how it affected Australia. The historical events of the 1930s were so cleverly woven into the personal stories of these young women as they battled themselves, their families, and the times they lived in. It was great to see some women pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable, looking for "male" jobs and independence balanced with society's expectations of women. And even amongst the sisters there is disagreement about a woman's role in society and the family. If you like family sagas with some historical fiction thrown in, this novel is for you.

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