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Bittersweet: A Novel (2013)

by Colleen McCullough

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4231860,611 (3.35)12
"Returning to the sweeping romantic saga, Colleen McCullough presents a new major work: the story of four unforgettable sisters navigating work, love, and their dreams in 1920s Australia. Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. They are famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, but as they step into womanhood, they are not enthusiastic about the limited prospects life holds for them. Instead, Edda wants to be a doctor, Tufts wants to organize everything, Grace won't be told what to do, 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 they become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, they meet people and encounter challenges that spark new maturity and independence. They meet men from all walks of life--the local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations, and each sister must make decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always...bittersweet"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I loved the relationships between the sisters; so loving and loyal. Nothing could break their bond, not even a jealous husband. There was some Australian history written into the story that was interesting. This wasn't a masterpiece, (like The Thorn Birds) but I did enjoy it and could easily recommend to friends. (I believe this was the last novel she published before her death) “I have no sisters and I do not dunk, but that’s a syllogism" ( )
  almin | Sep 5, 2020 |
I have mixed feelings on Colleen McCullough’s work. On one hand, Caesar’s Women and the rest of her Rome series are epic and well researched, grand-scale and personal, and basically everything that a historical novel should be. On the other hand, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett takes the prize for the worst Austenite fiction I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few. I was excited to read and review Bittersweet because I was sure it would either be amazing or dreadful, to the extreme.

So I was surprised at how terribly slow the first two thirds of the book were. The story focuses on four sisters, two sets of twins with the same father and different mothers. After the mother of the older twins died, their rector father quickly remarried the housekeeper, who gave him another set of twin girls. There is a tantalizingly brief mention of Maude’s speedy engagement and premature babies, which I translated into shotgun wedding, but it wasn’t really addressed again. The two sets of twins are almost the same age, and the older ones are kept back a little bit and the younger ones sped up a little bit so they can all start school together. (Squishing the girls into not-quite-right because it’s convenient for those around them is kind of the theme of the book.)



The sisters become nursing students, and there is mildly interesting class tension among hospital staff, and thoughtful commentary connecting the nurses’ special role of half waitress, half doctor to larger themes of women’s lib in Australia. It’s all engaging, but it’s not exactly a sweeping epic. The hospital is built on wide level ground so they don’t have to have stairs. (This is mentioned by pretty much every character in the book, so I thought it was worth mentioning in the blog review.)

from my review Mixed Reactions to Bittersweet: More underwhelming than bittersweet in this slow-moving novel. ( )
  TheFictionAddiction | Aug 12, 2020 |
Well it felt like a bit of a slog to finish this book, I liked all of the sisters but the plot was slow and plodding.
It's decades since I read the thorn birds by the same author and can remember really enjoying that, this book did not even compare ( )
  karenshann | Dec 31, 2019 |
Book on CD performed by Cat Gould.

A mini-series soap opera of a novel, following four sisters (two sets of twins) in early 20th century Australia. The Latimer girls have the same father, but different mothers. Edda and Grace’s mother died in childbirth, and their father later married the housekeeper originally hired to help the young widowed father. Early on their goals and dreams for themselves diverge: Edda wants to be a doctor, Grace to marry and raise a family, Tufts expects to stay single, and Kitty wants more than anything to known for something other than her extraordinary beauty.

McCullough does a great job of crafting this sweeping novel. I was engaged and interested in the story and in exploring life in Australia at this time frame. I really enjoyed learning about the nursing training the sisters underwent, as well as the early limitations and advances in medicine during this time period.

Ultimately, however, I did get frustrated by Grace’s manipulative “woe-is-me, I’m so helpless” attitude. Even Kitty – the extraordinary beauty – showed more gumption and grit. However, Grace did eventually grow up and showed some of the strength of her twin, Edda. I really liked Edda and the way that her story played out. She was the consistently strong one and seemed to naturally take on the mantel of oldest child and leader.

There were a few story lines that McCullough seemed to abandon for a time, and then reintroduce simply to resolve them.

Cat Gould does a fine job of narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace and has clear diction and enough skill as a voice artist to differentiate the many characters. I was listening during a long road trip and it made the miles fly by! 4**** for her performance. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jun 7, 2019 |
Set in an Australian regional town in the 1930s and tells the story of 4 sisters - 2 sets of twins as they find their place in the world. ( )
  TheWasp | Apr 11, 2019 |
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"Returning to the sweeping romantic saga, Colleen McCullough presents a new major work: the story of four unforgettable sisters navigating work, love, and their dreams in 1920s Australia. Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. They are famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, but as they step into womanhood, they are not enthusiastic about the limited prospects life holds for them. Instead, Edda wants to be a doctor, Tufts wants to organize everything, Grace won't be told what to do, 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 they become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, they meet people and encounter challenges that spark new maturity and independence. They meet men from all walks of life--the local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations, and each sister must make decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always...bittersweet"--

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