Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield


Part Of The Synopsis From The Dust Jacket:

All children mythologize their birth.... So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of short stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself - all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret.  Now old and ailing ,s he at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life.  She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain.  Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

I'm in love.  I don't think there is any other way I can put it.  After reading The Little Stranger I realized I really enjoy Gothic fiction.  After finishing The Thirteenth Tale, I'm in love with it.  I don't know how much of it I will read this year since the reading list in my head is pretty full already, but I'm looking forward to whatever I'm able to cram in.

What I loved about this book, and I won't get into many specific details, is the interaction between Vida and Margaret.  Their lives, while different in many ways, have a very tragic core to them that unites them at times and allows Vida to tell her tale.  And what a tale it is.  By piggybacking on their joint childhood pain, Vida is able to manipulate the narrative, allowing Margaret to see the truth and get distracted all at the same time.  It's a wonderful exploration of using personal narrative to tell a life story.  What parts of that story truly matter, which parts are simply window dressing, and which parts are purely fictional and only existed in the imagination.  Vida Winter is the true wordsmith of her life and it shows as she twists and weaves the truth with a bit of misleading information that fogs Margret's eyesight and keeps her from coming to the correct conclusions before Vida is ready.

There wasn't anything that I didn't love about this book.  I loved Vida's narrative style as she spun tales about her family, the Angelfields.  She brought each and every once of them to life as they interacted with each other and their home.  There is nothing out of place and every detail is needed to explain the actions of the wild twin girls, their adulteress governess and the last two remaining staff who keep secrets better than anyone.  The book is a treasure to read from the marbled green pattern your eyes see when you first crack open the cover to the carefully chosen words on every page.  This will be a book I keep and reread for a long time to come.

9 comments:

bermudaonion said...

One of my real life reading friends adores this book and raves about it all the time. She loaned me her copy months ago, insisting I read it. It sounds like I need to get on the stick!

Simcha said...

I listened to this audio book and it was absolutely fantastic. I particularly loved the writing, and when I wrote my review of this book I was hard pressed to limit myself to just a few quotes because this book had so many great passages.
I'm not sure if I would say that I like Gothic fiction, in general, but I'm certainly a fan of this author.

Jill said...

This sounds like a good book. I am pretty sure I added it to a TBR list at some point but it is so hard to get around to all the books I want to read. Thanks for the great review!

Trisha said...

I read this a long time ago after a random buy in the airport before a flight, but I don't really remember the details. I do, however, remember adoring the story!

Zia said...

I also loved this book. So much in fact, I turned around and listen to the audio version of it. There is something about Gothic fiction that calls out me. I'm not sure what, but I love it.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Another one in a long list of books in my personal library that I need/want to read! I've heard a lot of great things about it. Great review, Ryan!

Tianna Xander said...

I need to stop reading these posts. I've already added a ton to the TBR list. LOL

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

I have to get this .. it's going right on my list ... OK .. done. Thanks for the review!

Katy said...

A copy of this book made its way into my shelves just this week. I think it will move up a bit on the hierarchy of TBR books now. :)