Book Review, Discussion Questions & Answers: A Bitter Truth

Well Bess Craword certainly finds herself embroiled amongst seriously screwed up English families with all their issues and secrets! A Bitter Truth gives us the most tumultuous and secretive yet! And perhaps this is the reason why I enjoyed this one so much more than all of the others? Or perhaps it is because we see so much more of the “pluck” of Bess and learn more of her family history? There is more recognition of her father and everyone’s willingness to assist Bess once they learn of the relation.

At any rate, A Bitter Truth is the Best Bess Yet!

In previous discussion questions posted by BookClubGirl, she asks about new words, phrases, etc. we learned. This time I paid closer attention and did need to look up what “suttee” meant. It was used in the context of Indian women throwing themselves on to their husband’s pyre so as to not live a desolate life alone. And Suttee is the Hindu custom where a wife will burn herself, most likely by throwing herself on to the funeral pyre at her husband’s funeral.

Also, there was a saying used that I also had to look up, as I’ve never heard of it: “running someone to earth”, as Bess said she “ran Lydia to earth, finally, in the room above the hall.” It means to find someone after searching for them.

I also just loved the small mention of Canadian history with Lieutenant Colebourn and his black bear, Winnipeg – aka Winnie the Pooh! <3 !

Without further ado, on to the discussion questions posted by BookClubGirl:

1.) How did A Bitter Truth stack up for you against Bess’ previous two adventures?

I found A Bitter Truth to be the best so far of the Bess novels! Bess certainly finds herself embroiled in messy family situations doesn’t she? But I loved the Ellis family and all of their issues so much more than ever! This one kept me glued to the pages and interested in the story the whole time.  Although, I did find that Lydia is extremely manipulative and takes advantage of Bess almost immediately upon first meeting her. But, I adored, adored Bess’ flirtation with the tall and handsome Aussie Sgt. Larimore !!! Loved it! And wow – doesn’t he pull some tricks to “help” Bess eh?!

2.) I really enjoyed the mystery in this novel, and confess I was quite confounded as to who the killer was, until the very end. How about you?

Absolutely. This was a fine mystery! And I as well was left completely confounded until the very end too! Lots of twists and page-turners in this one!

3.) The plight of orphans in the war is brought to the forefront in this novel – what do you think of Lydia’s and Bess’ feelings and plans for Sophie?

Well, I’m not sure the plight of the orphans would have come to any of their attention, if not for the search to find this little girl Sophie in one of the French convents. Even Bess herself says that she had never thought of this side of effects of the war before learning of this little girl. I still see Lydia as a selfish and manipulative person that used everyone for her own gain or her own personal needs and desires. But…..I understand that Bess is a product of military protocol and therefore her incessant need to return the girl to France and follow the proper channels was her constant stance. However…..given that so many children were left as orphans and the kindness and care for the children could only be stretched so far, I was sort of siding with the Ellis family here, despite my dislike for their weird & selfish manner (especially Lydia). What harm would it possibly do to keep this beautiful child as their own and provide her with a life of comfort and care and love? They were going to see that the convent was well looked after in terms of money and supplies. ??? I see both sides, but honestly, I leaned towards the Ellis’ viewpoint here.

I do have to say though, the more books I read that take place in WWI, the more of it I learn. And the plight of the orphans is for me the same as it was for Bess – something I never really knew of before. I liked the many mentions of concern for what kind of people these children would grow into in the future. It is a fascinating and heartbreaking subject.

4.) I was struck by the passage in chapter 15, when Todd speaks of the evolution of the war: “The days when men lined up in their dozens to be the first to enlist had long since passed. Now the reality of the trenches had scoured away that bravado, and in its place were these recruits, afraid of shaming themselves in front of their mates but probably wishing themselves anywhere but here.” How did you see the war changing people and events in the novel?

From reading so many other books in the WWI period, I knew that the men came back no longer as heroes or treated with the bravado they once were. It went on for so much longer than anyone anticipated and I’ve only always read how they were shamefully treated upon their return home, etc. I suppose we are guilty of the very same to this day in the here and now as well.

5.) Simon Brandon plays an even greater role in this book than the last, though I don’t think Bess sees his interest as more than professional or familial. What do you think his intentions are? And do you think Bess recognizes them?

Well, to be honest, I think his role was the same, or he made the same number of appearances as in the previous two, in my opinion? I wasn’t overly aware that his intentions were more than familial, actually, I was thinking he had more of a presence or had more concern and had a larger part in Bess’ adventures in An Impartial Witness than here.

On to the next one! If A Bitter Truth was this good, I’m quite anxious for this one! To be released in June: An Unmarked Grave. It even comes with this awesome Book Trailer!!! Bess battles the Spanish Flu epidemic and falls ill to it herself!

(side note: I found out that the Spanish flu was responsible for killing more people post-WWI, than the War itself did. Amazing.)