Monday, June 10, 2013

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield


The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
Atria Books, 2006
406 pages
source: library

Book Description (from amazon):
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of Gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

My thoughts:
Part mystery, part family saga, and part ghost story, The Thirteenth Tale  is  a true story-telling marvel.

But what an unusual reading experience... with its lyrical prose and Gothic atmosphere, I instantly liked the book. Images of Rebecca  flashed through my mind and the many bookish references were great fun. However, about a third of the way through, I became bored and wasn't sure whether I wanted to continue. What could all the fuss be about? Since it was a book club selection, I kept reading and soon began to enjoy it again. And then I COULD NOT put it down... I mean the "forget about dinner, do I really need to pick my daughter, don't even bother talking to me" kind of can't put it down. At the end, I was speechless. And in the mood for a quick reread of Jane Eyre.

The Thirteenth Tale  has been around for since 2006. I can't believe it's taken so long to finally read it, but maybe that's a good thing. The wait for her new novel will be a short one.

A few favorite quotes:
There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic. p. 8-9 
His face settled into passive neutrality, a sign that, in the way of all storytellers, he was disappearing to make way for the voice of the story itself." p. 223 
Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes - characters even - caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you. p.289-290
My rating:



Bottom line:
If you haven't read The Thirteenth Tale, what are you waiting for?

36 comments:

  1. I think I *squeeed* a little when I heard there was a new book on the way. I loved Thirteenth Tale! Such a good book for all those same reasons.

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    1. Trish - I'm glad I haven't been waiting for her new book since 2006 ;-)

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  2. I LOVED this one and am glad that she finally has another one coming out. Finally!

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    1. Ti - I'm sure her fans are counting down the days until her new book is out.

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  3. I had a strange reaction to this book - I was LOVING the concept of it but didn't want to actually read it?! I'm glad you persisted and found it worthwhile though :)

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    1. Sam - After my experience, I can certainly understand your reaction! So glad I ended up sticking with it though...

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  4. I've had this one on my TBR list for ages. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I'm looking forward to getting to it eventually!

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    1. Seagreen Reader - I'll be curious to hear what you think of it. Hope you can read it soon.

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  5. I read this a few years ago and remember enjoying it, especially the Gothic atmosphere and all the references to books and authors. I'm looking forward to her new book!

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    1. Helen - I really loved the Gothic atmosphere, and the bookish references were such fun! Her new book is already on my wish list.

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  6. Glad you stuck with it. Good to be in a book group at times b/c one does tend to persevere and then be pleasant surprised or able to have a I Told You So attitude. I see our library has it and I have put it on the list. Oh my, the list is long.

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    1. Travellingenguin - I should really start keeping a list of books that make me thankful for my book club!

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  7. Read it and loved it! I can't wait for her newest novel that's for sure. Glad that you kept with it and were rewarded with an almost 5 star book!!!

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    1. Staci - I'm starting to think the midpoint slump was me...without that it definitely would have been a 5 star book.

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  8. I liked this book very much, too DESPITE the fact that 'weird twins' are one of my pet hates in literature! It was gothic and bookish and very well-written.

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    1. Vintage Reading - I have twin sisters and twin daughters, and understand exactly what you mean about 'weird twins' in books! Am surprised it didn't bother me here because this twist was even more far-fetched than usual :-)

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  9. I loved the book, too! I didn't hit that lull in middle like you did. I was constantly intrigued at finding the solution to the mystery. I had several different scenarios going on in my head as I read.

    Another thing that made the book a bit special to me was the character's name, Margaret Lea... my real first name is Lea and my middle name is Margaret! (Lilea ~pronounced Lily~ is a nickname, short for "little Lea" or "Lil' Lea".)

    I'm going to check out her new book now!

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    1. Lilea - I'm about ready to attribute my midpoint slump to mood. I had several different scenarios playing in my mind, too, but NEVER suspected the actual outcome. My mother read the book after I finished, and I enjoyed her speculations... she never came close either.

      Such a coincidence with your name and the character's - I love when things like that happen! I've already got her new book on my wish list :-)

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  10. I read this when it first came out and adored it. Gothic gets me every time. I've had a loooong wait for her second book so I am excited as all heck that it is coming out soon!

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    1. Anbolyn - I agree... nothing like a good Gothic novel!

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  11. I also love books about books. Zafon's book Shadow of the Wind was like this too. I enjoyed this one but the ending was a bit on the weird side for me but overall, a great read with beautiful prose!

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    1. Hmsgofita - Shadow of the Wind has been on my wish list for years!! Sounds like I should find a copy soon :-)

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  12. I read this in print and then listened to the audio! I really loved this one.

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    1. Beth F - I'm glad my book club pushed me to read it... such a great book!

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  13. Yeah, in the middle I started to wonder why we seemed to have gone off track a bit and then all of a sudden Setterfield was tying everything together and it just worked. I wasn't sure it could be done well but it was perfect!

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    1. Lisa - Tying that one up was truly an amazing feat... and I didn't even come close to guessing what would happen.

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  14. I whipped through this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved that the main character was so bookish. And Setterfield finally has a new book coming out!!! I can't wait.

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    1. Andi - I'm really excited about her new book!

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  15. It's been too many years since I read this one. I loved it!

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    1. Melissa - I had my doubts for a little while, but it turned out to be a near-perfect read!

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  16. I get it - I, too, recall having the story-telling get a big shaky somewhere. But ended up loving the book.

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    1. Care - Yes, that's exactly how I felt! Can't wait to read her new book...

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  17. It's been years since I read this one but I remember there being a section I struggled with too but, like you, I ended up loving it.

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    1. Stacybuckeye - I thought I was alone in that midpoint slump... don't remember hearing about it in any of the reviews I read. So glad it turned out be be a great read after all!

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  18. I loved this book and am always so happy when I see others that enjoyed it as well. I don't think it gets near enough attention that it deserves!

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    1. underagraysky - I'm sure her new book will get lots of buzz and attention... can't wait to read it!

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