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Book Review: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough has written across genres, but is probably best known for the romantic epic The Thorn Birds. After 36 years, she has finally penned another sweeping epic, Bittersweet – and it’s completely unputdownable.

Bittersweet centres around two sets of twins growing up in a fictional Australian town in the 1920s and 1930s. They decide to train as nurses, sad not to see so much of their beloved father, but delighted to be away from under the thumb of their mother/stepmother, Maude. The bond between these four sisters is strong, but they couldn’t be more different as people. Intelligent, independent and fiercely ambitious, Edna has always wanted to be a doctor, so training as a nurse is a clear second-best, and she is not willing to be subordinate to a man and doubts she will marry. Her twin, Grace, yearns to marry, and seems submissive, but we discover there is plenty of steel to her as the novel progresses. Tufts is down-to-earth and takes to nursing with ease, but like Edna she wants to be independent and not shackled to a man. Her twin, Kitty, is the most beautiful of all the sisters, but she is damaged by all the attention she gets because of her stunning looks. When she marries, has her husband married her because he truly loves her, or does he just love the way she looks on his arm, an asset to his political career?

As the Depression takes hold, the women’s lives are impacted in different and surprising ways. Through turbulent times, there is passion, love affairs, marriages, children and career ambitions that seem unattainable – but an unbreakable bond between these four women keeps them forever linked, despite the bittersweet nature of their lives. This is a magnificent book set during troubled times, a triumph of a novel.

#bookreviews #historicalfiction

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