Wednesday, June 11, 2014

July's Book

The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield

When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny.

All children mythologize their birth
...So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of 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, she 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.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

3 comments:

Lauri said...

This was a book written for readers. "A love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us." The author paints such a vivid picture with her words. I found myself thinking about this book long after I had finished it.

My only complaint is that I had to read every word, no skipping paragraphs or pages. I also read it in order of beginning, middle and end. I did cheat and read the very end which is a postscript-um and doesn't count as the end of the story.

I was surprised by the ending of the book and liked how the author tied up all the loose ends. I also liked the 13th tale.

I am interested to read her second book and see if she always writes this way.

"Reading can be dangerous." page 4

"Politeness. Now, there's a poor man's virtue if every there was one. What's so admirable about inoffensiveness, I should like to know. After all, it's easily achieved." page 45

Annell said...

I love this book. I think this is the third time I've read through it. The author definitely has a way with words that just suck you in.

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.”

“I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled.”

Linda Bigelow said...

This book is one of my favorites. The author has a talent for keeping me invested in her story.

Annell and Lauri already shared my favorite quotes. :)