When Mabel Dagmar, an ordinary girl, first met the privileged blue blood Genevra Winslow, the most relevant thing about her was how little she noticed Mabel. As if she were simply an annoyance to bear. Or an item of furniture, something she could overlook. Since Ev was her college roommate, Mabel tried to find a way to coexist with the strange girl.
So when Genevra (Ev) made an overture, offering an invitation to a special event, Mabel didn’t know what to make of it; she did notice, however, how Ev’s moods changed from dark to light, and that her occasional invitations afterwards were unpredictable. But the “intermittent reinforcement” had definitely hooked Mabel.
The invitation to the Winslow family summer retreat at their Vermont estate seemed almost like a gift that could then be quickly withheld. And what Ev did in the subsequent weeks, as Mabel found herself in the middle of a privileged world, was true to form. She alternately snarled, scowled, and withheld her attention, and then drew Mabel back to her with one kind gesture. To say she was spoiled and entitled would be an understatement. I did not like anything about this character, even though I realized that her parents had had a role in creating this behavior.
Because Ev was often unavailable, both physically and emotionally, Mabel found her own way among the family members, and developed a unique relationship with Ev’s aunt, Indo, an eccentric woman who made an unusual request.
Narrated in Mabel’s first person voice, the reader is drawn into the story, seeing the privileged world through Mabel’s eyes…and wanting to warn her as she becomes more and more hooked on the feelings this world engenders. Our narrator tells the story as if looking back on this time and these events. There is a sense of loss about her tale. And all the while, she, too, has a dark secret.
What did Mabel discover about the Winslows? How did what she learned change everything about her summer and her life? Did she rise above the evil she had inadvertently become a part of? And who would be an unexpected ally in the end?
Bittersweet: A Novel was a story about a family so dysfunctional that one would have to look very hard to find anything good about it. How Mabel turned things around in the end brought a satisfying conclusion to the dark and twisted history of this family. 5.0 stars.