Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Review: The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
5 stars

Oh, I don't want to give anything away! Briefly, it is the story of Vida Winter, England's most prolific and popular novelist. It is also the story of Margaret Lea, a solitary woman employed in her father's antiquarian bookshop and an amateur biography. Miss Winter has told fans and reporters alike different versions of her life for years (she is, after all, a master storyteller) but now that her life is coming to an end, she wants Margaret to tell the whole truth for her, at last. Margaret is skeptical of Vida's ability to tell the truth, so she does some research on her own. Between Miss Winter's recollections and Margaret's research, a thrilling, incredible and tragic story of sisters is revealed. And along the way, the story of Margaret's past is revealed, too.

Favourite quote: This book is chock-full of great writing, but I particularly enjoyed this one about the joys and perils of reading:

"I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now.
Reading can be dangerous."

My thoughts: This was an amazingly entertaining book - suspenseful, shocking, with wonderful language. I was hooked from the very beginning, with Setterfield's description of the way light came through a window onto the doorstep. I sometimes found Margaret just a bit tiresome - I wanted to get on with Vida's story instead of Margaret's agonizing over her past and relationship with her mother. Jane Eyre, one of my favourites, plays a big part in the novel, although I confess I didn't always make all of the connections. At one point Margaret had figured out all of the clues and I still hadn't, this one kept me guessing til the end!


Heather said...

Wasn't it great!? I read this already and really enjoyed it!


tinylittlelibrarian said...

It really was a great read! I couldn't image where Vida's story was going to go next, it kept surprising me.

Anonymous said...

I read this book last October and it was one of my favorites of the year.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

I think it'll be one of mine, too, Stephanie, for this year. It was sure a great read.

Louise said...

I read this not long ago and I wasn't overly fond of it. You can read my (short) review here: