The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
Atria Books, 2006
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.
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.289-290My rating:
If you haven't read The Thirteenth Tale, what are you waiting for?