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Bittersweet [Paperback]

N Barr
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 14 1999
Award-winning author Nevada Barr reveals another side to her remarkable storytelling prowess with this heart-wrenching yet tender tale of two women whose boundless devotion to each other is continually challenged in nineteenth century America.

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Product Description


"A solid, unabashed piece of writing that glows with authenticity." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Barr has drawn on women's diaries from the Old West to bring detail to this unusual romance. The result is an intriguing story, sensitive and authentic-sounding, and far different from what is usually considered a Western novel." -- The Miami Herald

"The tender and gentle in its exploration of commitment between two women, especially in days when females were expected to live out their narrow lives doing exhausting work and obeying their husbands." -- St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch

About the Author

Navada Barr is the award-winning author of seven Anna Pigeon mysteries:Track of the Cat, A Superior Death, Ill Wind, Firestorm,Endangered Species, Blind Descent, and Liberty Falling. She lives in Mississippi and was most recently a ranger on the Natchez Trace Parkway

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A RAWBONED WOMAN NEARLY SIX FEET TALL PULLED ON THE BRASS handle; the door was wedged against the lintel and wouldn't close-the fog that had lain over Philadelphia since late September had swelled the wood. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It just wouldn't end! Oct. 20 2003
Yes, the book just kept going on. It was well written, but uninteresting. I stuck with it up to the bittersweet ending and was left disappointed. It seemed to me like i was watching somebody's uninteresting life. Like I whipped out my binoculars and looked at the window and just watched all the boring people for about 10 years. There were some nice little parts and the ending was satisfying in the grand scheme of it all and it would no doubt be a Lesbian classic had it been written in the 1950's or something. But in this time, its just monotonous. The love story was barely existent and was really just a buddy book about two outcasts, a lesbian who wants the other to be lesbian and a straight girl who everyone thinks is a lesbian. Yes, she does end up going that way, but only after many years of befriending the other woman. You get the distinct impression the young straight girl truly loved her friend and needed her...just not that way. And in the end, out of love, she gave her friend what she'd been wanting all along.
Now, i could be completely off the mark, I am a straight male. Just my opinion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good if you ignore the unconvincing parts Aug. 19 2003
By C. Hill
This is a historical tale of domestic violence, hatred, intolerance, ignorance, survival and love in the 1870s. Essentially "chased" from Philadelphia after a mysterious incident with a female student which is not explained to the reader until much later in the book, teacher Imogene Grezlnick moves to a small farming town in rural Pennsylvania to take up a teaching position there. She befriends one of her oldest students, Sarah, who takes a liking to her new teacher. Their relationship blossoms, even more so as Sarah struggles to survive her marriage with her abusive husband, Sam. Eventually, Imogene's past catches up her and Sarah becomes inadvertently involved, so the two women are forced to leave Pennsylvania. They move to Reno, Nevada, and later still, to a stage stop in the desert, Round Hole. The often bizarre relationship between the strong-willed, strong-spirited Imogene and the exceedingly weak, frail and shy Sarah (often annoyingly delicate and feeble to the point of pure exasperation) develops slowly throughout the novel, ending in a rather unconvincing partnership.
It took too long for the story to get going, but once it did, it moved right along and kept my attention. During the time in Caliope and Reno, the story was pretty good and well-written, containing all the best elements of an adventurous life in the West. But after the girls moved out to Round Hole, it started going downhill, all the way to the terrible ending, which was swift and abrupt and lame. The charade that they try to maintain throughout the last third of the book is completely unbelievable and more than a little ridiculous. I thought it was a very poor way to get the two women out of a difficult situation and it just didn't work at all. Still, except for the last part of the book and the unconvincing relationship that develops between the two friends, I thought this was a pretty good story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Cool Journey May 22 2000
Wow! This book was a continual surprise for me. It's really good on so many levels: well-written, great character development, beautifully crafted scenery, and a tricky plot.
Two women move west to escape persecution from their lifestyle. Unfortunately when they first move, they haven't actually done anything, but the one woman becomes entangled in the other's affairs. Though this is a novel about the love two women have for eachother the sexual feelings are secondary to simple, mutual caring.
Intrigued by the life these women "lived," I several times read the book into the wee hours of morning. It was quite a wonderful journey. I do have one criticism, which is that the end of the book was confusing. I don't want to give anything away, but what the women did to keep the ranch was one thing, the fact that the "person" changed names in the narrative was (to me at least) cumbersome reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Wild West With A Feminist Point Of View May 26 2003
Unlike mystery writer Nevada Barr's other novels, her first novel Bittersweet is a historic novel set in the 1870s United States.
I fell in love with the two heroines, Imogene, a teacher, and Sarah, her student, who ends up in a loveless and brutal marriage. They love each other and are persecuted by narrow-minded people who claim their love is unnatural and sinful. This hostility forces them to bond together, to hide their true feelings, and to move from place to place. The author does a great job of presenting this relationship in the context of the 19th Century, and yet provides a deeper look into the daily lives of these women than would be possible from historic sources of the time.
Truly an inspiring story of the power of love and the strength that comes from a loving relationship.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Jan. 23 2001
By A Customer
This was a great portrayal of two women who struggled to make a life together during a very difficult time period. The plot was riveting and kept my interest. The characters were not portrayed as stereotypical lesbians, which was a nice change from other novels that I have read. This is a definite change of pace from the Anna Pigeon mysteries I have become used to reading by this author. Sarah and Imogene were great characters. I only have one criticism. Toward the end of the novel, I was flipping to see if I had read something wrong, due to the author's use of pronouns and the name switch that occurred. Overall a great depiction of two women who knew their own strength and used it to their advantage! The scenery was vividly described and the characters well-read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet
This book is an insightful and sensitive look at the isolation of individuals and the comfort of companionship. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2003 by Marybeth Quist
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Writing
The author is highly skilled at conveying her story, finely drawing her characters, and capturing the atmosphere of the 1800's. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2001 by labellepersonne
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read
The story of an old maid schoolteacher and a young farm girl who became very close, in fact in love, which at that time was unheard of. Read more
Published on April 24 2001 by Reeda
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
I came to this novel as a reader of the Anna Pigeon series. As it was Nevada Barr's first novel, I expected far less than I got. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Love in struggle
Barr's first novel is the story of two women trying to make a life together in the late 1800s in Pennsylvania and later in Nevada. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2000 by "blissengine"
2.0 out of 5 stars Someone get me a gun...
I thoroughly enjoyed all of Ms. Barr's other works of fiction, but good Lord, this book was depressing. Read more
Published on May 30 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Someone get me a gun...
I thoroughly enjoyed all of Ms. Barr's other works of fiction, but good Lord, this book was depressing. Read more
Published on May 30 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminescent of the book, Patience and Sarah
The pioneer setting and the hard-scrabble life described in Bittersweet, reminded me of Isobel Miller's now-classic lesbian novel, Patience and Sarah. Read more
Published on April 20 2000 by Dot James
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