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A People Pick of the Week, August 2014
In her first epic romantic novel since The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough weaves a sweeping story of two sets of twins—all trained as nurses but each with her own ambitions—stepping into womanhood in 1920s and ’30s Australia.
Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. Yet these vivacious young women each have their own dreams for themselves: 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. 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.
Together they decide to enroll in a training program for nurses—a new option for women of their time who have previously been largely limited to the role of wives, and preferably mothers. As the Latimer sisters 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—local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations—and each sister must make weighty decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always … bittersweet.
Rendered with McCullough’s trademark historical accuracy, this dramatic coming-of-age tale is wise in the ways of the human heart, one that will transport readers to a time in history that feels at once exotic and yet not so very distant from our own.
“Filled with humor, insight, and captivating historical detail, McCullough’s latest is a wise and warm tribute to family, female empowerment, and her native land.”
“Just as epic as her ultra-romantic classic, The Thorn Birds.”
“Vintage McCullough…underlines several of McCullough’s enormous strengths as a writer—superbly deft characterization; multiple plots that move apace; a warmth and generosity in the telling; and dialogue sharp and, in moments, uproariously funny…a meditation on love and the decisions we make that riffle into our future.”
“It’s the heartwarming family bonds that will have you passing this gem on to friends.”
Better Homes and Gardens (Australia)
“Lovers of McCullough’s bestseller The Thorn Birds will be happy to hear that Bittersweet takes us back to historic country Australia…as clever, compelling, and as down-to-earth as its four heroines.”
Australian Women’s Weekly
“A master class in succinct, precise prose, captivating yet flawed characters, and an engrossing historical setting…meticulously researched and cleverly composed.”
Good Reading (Australia)
“A great read.”
“Readers of historical family dramas will be excited to find a new, satisfying book to enjoy while longtime fans of The Thorn Birds will be over the moon, welcoming back a dear old friend. Take it to the beach, on the plane, or the couch, this book will be the best traveling companion of the summer.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“McCullough’s richly drawn characters grab hold of the heartstrings from the beginning of their journey through early-twentieth-century Australia, and prove that, even when choices are not in wide supply, happiness is attainable—even if, at times, it is bittersweet.”
“Bittersweet is both a fascinating exploration of the bonds between sisters and a fine historical novel.”