cover image Bitter


Francesca Jakobi. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4746-0756-8

In 1934, the wealthy father of Gilda Meyer, the narrator of British author Jakobi’s engrossing first novel, pushes her at 17 into marrying Frank Goodman, a business associate of his more than twice her age. Gilda, a student at a Surrey boarding school where she’s ostracized because she’s a German Jew, feels unprepared for marriage. In 1939, she gives birth to a son, Reuben, but severe postpartum depression prevents her from bonding with him. At the center for European refugees where she gets a job teaching English, she falls madly in love with Leo Zubek, a teacher from Poland. After she tells Frank about Leo, he agrees to a divorce if she relinquishes full custody of Reuben. Over the years, her relationship with her son grows distant. After Reuben marries Alice, a non-Jew, in 1969, Gilda becomes unhealthy involved in their lives. She spies on the couple obsessively, even secretly entering their London home. An inadvertent remark by Gilda’s mother brings secrets to the surface, and Gilda realizes her life isn’t what she believed it to be. Gilda’s personal trials will keep readers in thrall to the bittersweet ending. [em]Agent: Felicity Blunt, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Apr.) [/em]