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Bittersweet [Hardcover]

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 Jun 2014

One perfect family.
Too many perfect lies.

Small-town girl Mabel Dagmar is out of her depth. At her elite East Coast college, unversed in the nuances of casual privilege, she is ignored, especially by her dormmate, Ev Winslow, whose pedigree disguises a chequered past. Then out of nowhere Ev softens and Mabel finds herself entering the world of the elite, with an invitation to the Winslows’ private estate, Winloch, that very summer.

Days spent swimming in watery coves evaporate into nights at glamorous cocktail parties. And as the formality melts away with one Winslow brother in particular, Mabel is left to think that her summer has all but become a golden dream.

But when Mabel looks a little closer at the Winslows, probing beneath their glossy exterior, what she uncovers in their past is almost as shocking as what she finds out about their present. Beneath the beauty is a rotten core.

And not everyone is quite as they seem…

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The Borough Press (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000753664X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007536641
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 16.4 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘An engrossing summer blast’ MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD, bestselling author of Seating Arrangements

‘A beach read with lots of grisly twists’ DAILY MAIL

‘Beautifully written… an eeriness about it that keeps you gripped right up until the last page’ HEAT

‘Evokes Gone Girl with its exploration of dark secrets and edge-of-your-seat twists’ ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

‘Gripping, beguiling and beautifully written… a page turner that chills as it intoxicates. Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has created a family so dangerously enthralling that the more we learn of their greed and bloodlust, the more we aspire to belong’
KATE CHRISTENSEN, PEN/Faulkner award-winning author of The Great Man and Blue Plate Special

‘Part coming-of-age story, part riveting mystery, Bittersweet is a tantalizing tale of an outsider thrust into a glittering world of immense privilege and suspect morals. With a narrator torn between uncovering one family's dark secrets and protecting her own, Bittersweet brilliantly explores the complicated question of what price any of us would pay to seize the life of our dreams’
KIMBERLY MCCREIGHT, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia

About the Author

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three novels, including The Effects of Light and Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, for the best book of fiction by an American woman published in 2007. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, she lives and writes in Brooklyn and Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark doings in Vermont 8 Feb 2014
By Penny Waugh TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was attracted to this book by the references to Tigers in Red Weather, which I enjoyed, but in fact this has a very different feel. This is a story to sink into; the style inviting the reader towards total immersion in the doings (and misdoings) of the Winslow family of Vermont. It is set firmly in the present day but it has the feel somehow of a historical novel of the voluptuous variety and it had me hooked and quite happy to suspend disbelief almost indefinitely.
The story is far from unfamiliar: poor college girl from the sticks with her own issues finds herself the roommate of a very rich girl who first ignores her then apparently comes to depend on her. Invited to the family estate in Vermont for the summer, Mabel is flattered, fascinated, and then increasingly suspicious as the secrets of a huge clan are gradually revealed through disaffected members, old diaries and her own desire to find out what makes these people tick.
Mabel is insecure and nosy in the extreme, but she champions her friend Ev and fourteen year old Lu and becomes inextricably mixed up in the life of the family. Through the course of the summer much changes; Mabel discovers much she might prefer not to about Birch, head of the family, his wife Tilde, aunts, uncles and cousins, and also about herself and the reasons she was brought to Winloch, the family's vast estate.
Winloch itself is intriguing. The family live apart in many houses and cottages dotted about the estate; some opulent, some very shabby and all named horticulturally (Bittersweet, Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace, etc.)with woods and cliffs and lake front. It is a world on its own and hidden in it are evil secrets, old and new.
I loved it, but give it four stars because in the end the magic began to thin as events escalated far beyond the belief the earlier part of the story engendered. The ending was maybe too happy and the evil too easily swept under the carpet, but this was all told, an extremely good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overblown, poorly written nonsense 17 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mabel Dagmar, the narrator of this tale is the dowdy, dumpy roommate of Genevra (Ev) Winslow - slim, beautiful, petulant and spoilt young brat of the Winslow clan. Ev tolerates Mabel - only just - but then, surprisingly, invites her to spend the summer at Winloch, the summer home where the whole family gathers. Oh Joy, thinks Mabel, as she jumps at the opportunity to escape her own awful family for a few months. She grabs what few clothes she possesses and her copy of Paradise Lost - a not too subtle comparison the author tries to draw between the "paradise" that is Winloch and Milton's classic which Mabel never manages to finish, despite that fact that she drags it with her whenever she goes.

Despite the wealth of the Winslows, Winloch is made up of various dilapidated cottages, each with it's own twee flower or plant-based name, Bittersweet being one of them. Other unlikely ones are Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Queen Anne's Lace; I'm all for giving houses names, but these are just plain silly. Likewise the names of the Winslows - not a Chardonnay or Sharon, Kayden or Kylie among them - no, these people bear names such as Galway, Luvinia, Athol and Birch as befits their wealth and standing.

The characters are obnoxious and mean; even Mabel is thoroughly unlikeable. Acutely embarrassed and angry at being found in a compromising position she thinks nothing of spying on at least two couples engaged in sexual activity, never for once imagining how they would feel if they knew they were being watched. Mabel is encouraged by an old Winslow crone to dig up some family dirt - secrets from generations ago, a task she undertakes with relish. She is selfish, greedy and sneaky - actually more like a Winslow than she realises, but I somehow don't think this was the author's intention.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This starts off well then, at about halfway through, suddenly takes a huge dive into operatic melodrama. I can’t give details without spoiling this for other readers, but this is a book for readers who have a high tolerance for hectic and sensationalist plots.

I struggled to believe in the mythology of the Winslows, and could never really picture the set up where the whole extended family lives in isolated cottages, with a central building called the Dining Room where they meet for social gatherings.

The characters, too, are difficult to warm to, not least our narrator, Mabel: she’s nosy and naive, and it’s never clear why other characters adore her.

Paradise Lost which Mabel is struggling to read is used throughout in a very heavy-handed way, and she never ceases to draw comparisons between Eden and the Winslows' home, with hints that there’s a Lucifer in the offing...

So this is ok as one of those light, switch-off, escapist reads – but it’s fundamentally frothy nonsense.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More bitter than sweet 5 Jun 2014
Mabel Dagmar is a plain teenage girl who is befriended by her beautiful, rich, blue blooded college roommate, Genevra Katherine Winslow who is known by the diminutive Ev for no obvious reason and no reason is ever given. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer with her in her newly inherited house called Bittersweet at Winloch, an estate owned by Ev's parents and where all the Winslow family spend their summer.
Mabel begins to realise that there are dark secrets at the heart of the Winslow family and decides to investigate the Winslow past. However, Mabel also harbours a secret which is as dark as any that haunt the Winslow family.
Bittersweet is a competently written novel with the author having a good grasp of characterization, dialogue and plot. However, the novel is 150 pages to long and very bland in its style and substance. The novel's `twists' that are straightened out eventually are all obvious to anyone who is well read. The secrets are plot twists that have been used too often not only in books but in films especially in recent years. One twist concerns a Van Gogh painting that had the family had the sense to simply recover the back of the painting this particular secret would never have been exposed.
Too often the author struggles for an analogy or simile she hasn't already utilised and in doing so becomes repetitive. Emotions and feelings wash over the characters too often in the form of water and its many guises; a lake, a river, rain. Allusions are writ large. Mabel's favourite book is Jane Eyre. She is always attempting to read Paradise Lost.
Some scenes in the novel border on the ridiculous. Not once but twice Mabel stumbles upon couples having sex and she is also stumbled upon while she is masturbating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars bitterweet
Small-town girl Mabel Dagmar is out of her depth. At her elite East Coast college, unversed in the nuances of casual privilege, she is ignored, especially by her dormmate, Ev... Read more
Published 12 hours ago by E. Dale
2.0 out of 5 stars Pointless
I had hoped for a psychological thriller. Like gone girl. Unfortunately it was full of boring description unsympathetic characters and a disjointed and unfulfilled plot. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Bookworm
2.0 out of 5 stars I read somewhere that this was the new 'tigers in ...
I read somewhere that this was the new 'tigers in red weather' isn't. Quite teenage/university style than mature writing. Disaappointed.
Published 11 days ago by Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars Another world
I loved this. It plunges you into another world. It was a break from the here and now but not candy floss or escapism. Just a terrific read.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
predictable, a little naff
Published 1 month ago by gemma wood
5.0 out of 5 stars A book well worth reading.
A book full of family secrets, of the beautiful rich and privileged and what they will do to protect it all. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. T. SALMON
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and complex
Bittersweet was incredibly addictive. Even though it was pushing towards the longer novels than I usually read, I found myself drawn to it again and again. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Laura's little book blog
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawn in by the comparisons with Tigers in Red Weather but did not...
I really enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather and when I saw that this one was compared to it I was intrigued to read it, However, although there is a similarity in storylines, I do not... Read more
Published 5 months ago by S. A. Broadhurst
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet
Mabel is a poor, chubby, dowdy scholarship student. Her room-mate, Genevera, is her polar opposite, sleek, beautiful and RICH. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Joey
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