The Wild Girl – Kate Forsyth

The Wild Girl


Allison & Busby



My Rating
5 fairytale stars!


Following the success of the beautiful Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth is back to tempt our senses with another visually stunning novel, The Wild Girl.  Whilst much has been written about the Brothers Grimm, much less is known about the sources of their tales, especially Dortchen Wild who lived next door  to the Grimm family.  Dortchen was the second youngest in a family of six daughters and one son and she was a close friend of the Grimms’ only sister, Lotte.  We know which stories were provided by Dortchen but little about her family life – a life which is reimagined by the author.

Fairy tales are extremely popular in modern culture, from the saccharine representations in Disney films to the only slightly feistier Once Upon A Time tv series.  However, these somewhat idealistic images are far removed from the reality of daily life for the Grimms, Wilds and their fellow citizens in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom.   For a while, the Wilds are better off than most  but when the French army invade in 1806, everyone faces hardship and hunger.  Forsyth expertly weaves the personal story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild against the sweeping backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars.  We see how the war affects ordinary folk, how they detest the invaders whilst growing to appreciate the new freedoms accorded by the Napoleonic Code.

This is also a love story, albeit a turbulent one with little hope of “happy ever after” along the way.  Dortchen falls in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she sees him, aged twelve.  Unfortunately, her father disapproves of the Grimms and  their lack of income as they struggle to generate money from their collection of traditional tales.   As the story  unfolds, we see a more sinister side to Herr Grimm and realise that he isn’t concerned with his children’s welfare at all.  Just as the Grimms had to alter the more gruesome, sordid aspects of stories to make them more palatable for a wider audience, Dortchen also hides the dark secret of her father’s systematic abuse.  This theme isn’t sensationalised, it’s simply heartbreaking and you realise how difficult it is for Dortchen to break free, if indeed she ever will…

A beautiful story with dark themes, a tale to be savoured as you hope for that elusive happy ending.  Like another of my favourite authors, Philippa Gregory, Kate Forsyth has that magic touch which resurrects the forgotten heroines of history, the women who played key roles but who were overshadowed by the men.   When I next see a reference  to Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin or The Elves and the Shoemaker, I’ll think of the Sisters Wild – it has a nice ring  to it, don’t you think?


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About the Author

Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children , translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Gypsy Crown series of children’s historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

Please visit Kate Forsyth’s WEBSITE and BLOG for more information. You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER.

My thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in this, my first blog tour!  Hope I passed the test. :-)

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  1. Yay, you liked it too!
    You mention something that I forgot to mention in my review – that the abuse isn’t sensationalised. I think that’s key as in the hands of another author, it very easily could have been.

  2. Teresa says:

    Yes, Sam, another fan here! I hope she will write more historical fiction as we could do with new blood focussing outside the Tudors et al.

  3. I’m seeing this one pop up everywhere and it looks SO GREAT!

  4. Teresa says:

    Ah, Andi, you’ve noticed the intensive blog tour campaign… ;-) I think you’d enjoy this one. Intelligent and a wee bit quirky.

  5. Charlie says:

    Agreed, it’s an excellent book. I like the comparison you made between Dorchen’s secret and the Grimms’ changing of the tales, I hadn’t thought of it like that, and it’s very fitting.

  6. Teresa says:

    We all seem to have enjoyed it, Charlie. I hope it reaches a large audience.

  7. So glad you loved this one Treez! I am about to start it. Have you read Bitter Greens, I bet you’d like that one too.

  8. Annabel says:

    Like the sound of this too.

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