Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

genre: adult mystery
where it came from: the TBR drawer, I'm pretty sure I picked it up at the thrift store

Margaret has lived her life among books.  Raised amidst the shelves of her father's bookstore, she has breathed in the written word since she was a child and, not surprisingly, she is more comfortable in the pages of a book than she is with people.  This explains a good part of her hesitancy when she receives a letter from the very famous author Vida Winters, asking (demanding) that Margaret come to her home and write her biography.

And thus begins Vida's story, well, the girl who BECOMES Vida.  The twists and turns that her tale takes will only create more mysteries for Margaret to solve until Margaret's own longing and pain takes on a life of its own and Vida's secrets are unraveled.  Set in a dilapidated old manor house, Vida's family story becomes flesh and blood while we the readers search for answers along with Margaret.

Intriguing and well-narrated, I found myself surprisingly engaged by the mysteries of this book.  The narration slid smoothly between Margaret's modern life and Vida's past.  As the mother of twins, I was especially interested in the relationship between sisters and how their "twinness" affected the plot.  I actually loved how at the heart of this book was a longing for family - that desperate hunger to feel needed and loved, to know where we belong and how our own story begins.  Beyond that, I just loved how this book was an ode to book lovers.  Both Margaret and Vida expressed beautifully how much we can be moved by words.  This quote, in particular, I loved, about authors:

For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them.  Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods.  Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy.  They can comfort you.  They can perplex you.  They can alter you.  All this, even though they are dead.  Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

While there was definitely a bit of a sordid edge that sometimes made me vaguely uncomfortable, I cannot deny that I really enjoyed it.  A tale of loss, of yearning for answers, of the bond between twins and the power of a story, Thirteenth Tale does not disappoint.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

A friend of mine loaned me this book saying I had to read it. I never got to it so I returned it unread. It sounds like I should have made time for it.

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