My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Wittemore is 2014 Crown publishing release. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher, Edelweiss, and Blogging for Books- in exchange for an honest review.
I could envision this idealistic estate set in Vermont during the summer months, could see the cottages, and could understand Mabel's attraction to the Winslow family. The roommate of Ev, a girl that seems to only need Mabel when it suits her, gives Mabel the opportunity of a lifetime when she is invited to spend the summer with her. Bittersweet is the name of the cottage Ev will inherit and she enlist Mabel to help her get the place in shape.
Told in first person narrative, the Winslow family has Mabel enthralled and she will do anything in order to remain on the estate. But, when one of the relatives living on the estate ask Mabel to look into the family history, hinting at something that might prove the family came by it's wealth by being involved in something shady or criminal, Mabel is intrigued. Of course she must keep her research a secret from the rest of the family.
As Mabel learns the lay of the land, so to speak, she encounters the adopted daughter, Lu, and Ev's brother, Galway and assorted other rather eccentric relatives, all with their own cottage.
But, the Winslow family are not the only ones with a deep dark secret. Mabel herself has a few things she would prefer the Winslow family not to know about her and her family.
This book has been categorized as literary fiction, mystery, and even a few labeling it “Gothic”. I think this book would indeed fit into all these genres. The first person telling, which in my opinion is the hardest to pull off, was done very well, the suspense is an excruciatingly slow build, which left me with a constant sense of foreboding, and the mystery is compelling, and Gothic? Well, not the Jane Eyre type of Gothic and this book does not have any supernatural elements which many think is what Gothic is all about, but more of a V.C. Andrews style of Gothic. It's a strange combination, but overall it worked. Now, if you are one of those people that absolutely must have your characters likeable, you might want to move on, because while I could identify with Mabel on many occasions, she has her own flaws. Is she really any better than the Winslow's? If you love old family secrets with lots of twist and turns, then you will like this one. This book most likely hit close to the mark with families like the Winslow's who may have a rather sordid history but know how to put a positive spin on it with the public. It happens all the time I am sure. I found this book very absorbing and atmospheric. The weather patterns even added to the drama with wind and storms during the summer months hinting at a type of turbulence that mirrored what was happening with the Winslow family and with Mabel.
This would make a good book club read and I recommend to those that enjoy all genre's I listed above and those that like to read something a bit off the beaten path. This one is 4 stars.