Bitter By Francesca Jakobi – A Review

Publisher: Wienfeld & Nicholson

Publication Date: 8th March 2018

Now it’s times like these that I really adore and see the value of social media. Without Twitter I can’t guarantee that this book would have made it into the realms of my radar. As it happens, I was scrolling my Twitter timeline one day and saw a picture of this beautiful proof. I NEEDED it in my life and my clutches and said so there and then. The author, the lovely Francesca Jakobi approached me and asked if I would like to review the book. Hell to the yes! And hey presto a mere few days later I had a copy in my hands. And stunning it is too!

Set in the 1960’s, we meet Gilda (I love that name!), a woman who has led quite a tough life which eventually leads to her having to make the ultimate sacrifice and walk away from her son, Reuben.

The story starts as Reuben has just married Alice, a petite blonde of which Gilda does not approve. She is terribly jealous of her sons relationship with his new wife, especially as their own relationship is extremely strained, if not completely fractured.

Gilda finds herself becoming slightly obsessed with Alice, observing events from the periphery of her sons life. Following Alice to work, letting herself into their home when they aren’t there and constructing ‘accidental’ meetings in the street.

We also flit back in time in alternate chapters, right back to Gilda’s childhood, her relationship with her sister and her distant parents. Right through her two main relationships and the birth of Reuben.

These chapters really allowed me to understand Gilda and the events which had shaped her personality. At the start I did wonder what her issue was, however the dips back in time made me sympathise with Gilda and the situation she finds herself in. Trying her utmost to forge some sort of satisfying relationship with Reuben, who for his own reasons is very distant with Gilda. Choosing instead to live in a perfect bubble with his wife, whom he adores.

The strap line on the book is:

‘He says she taught him how to love; that she taught him what love could be. And I can’t look at him because he didn’t learn about love from me’

This is because when Reuben was a small child, Gilda struggled to bond fully with him for various reasons. Taking to her bed for days, even weeks at a time and not involving herself in his life.

It’s quite hard to read at times, the palpable loneliness and desperation of Gilda (in both time periods) is heartbreaking. I found myself rooting for her so much, I wanted her to be happy finally.

I found the relationship between Gilda and Alice so heartwarming. Alice is such a lovely character, thoughtful, inclusive and desperately trying to build bridges between the man she loves and the mother he struggles to feel love for.

The character of Gilda is so superbly written, she has real depth and is fully rounded, a real flesh and blood character. She is someone who will stay with me for a long time. Not all of the characters in this book are likeable, in fact I didn’t really warm to Reuben despite the various tough times he’d been through in his life too.

Overall I can safely say I loved this book. The writing is superb and the short, succinct chapters keep the momentum going. If you’re after an action packed story, then this probably won’t be for you but I loved the slow burn of getting to know the developing characters, it’s not always necessary to be dragged along in the thick of an action packed plot. Halfway through I reached for my phone to google whether the author had written anything else because I was ready to snap up her whole back catalogue. Alas (for me) this was the authors debut novel. I’m going to have to wait patiently for more superb work (oh I do hope there’s more!)

(And just as a side note, the author Francesca Jakobi is lovely too!)

I recommend that you get yourself a copy of this book and let Gilda into your heart! You won’t regret it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxxx

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