The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
3 journalers for this copy...
Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.
There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:
"You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone."
She [Vida] shrugged. "It's my profession. I'm a storyteller."
"I am a biographer, I work with facts."
The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida's plan.
Margaret has a story of her own: she was one of conjoined twins and her sister died so that Margaret could live. She feels an otherworldly aura sometimes or a yearning for a part of her that is forever missing. Vida's story involves two wild girls--feral twins (is she one of them?)--who would have been better off being suckled by wolves. Instead, their mother and uncle, involved in things too unsavory to contemplate, combine to neglect them woefully. There's also a governess, a Doctor, a kindly housekeeper, a gardener, and another presence--a very strange presence--which Margaret perceives as a ghost at first. Making obeisance to other great ghost stories, there is a deadly fire, a beautiful old house gone to ruin, and always that presence....
The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story's end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told.
The relationship between the two character is at time strained but it eventually blossoms into respect and friendship. Margaret herself has some life issues to work out. A secret she found out when she was young has changed everything for her. The relationship with her mother is strained. I didn't feel like I quite understood the relationship when I was reading the book. Infact I thought that Margaret was avoiding her mother until I was specifically told otherwise in the book. It would have been nice to get that a little clearer towards the beginning of the novel.
Looking back on the book, the plot line was fairly complicated. But Setterfield gives you just enough information for you to be able to figure things out on your own, if you're smart enough! I love the way she very slowly peels back the layers until the truth is exposed underneath.
Some of the desciptions given in the book are fantastic! I think my very favourite was when Margaret was at Miss Winter's house and looking out the window when it started to rain and her face started to melt with the rain. It was such a great description of something that you see all the time but never really pay attention to.
I would definately recommend this book and will be looking out for Setterfield's next book.
Reserved for aceofhearts, then corry.
This story is about a biographer finally writing the true story of a profilic and beloved author, Vida Winter. Winter had given out numerous accounts of herself in the past but never the 'real deal'. This story unfolds chapter after enchanting chapter with a little bit more revealed each time. I must admit I never saw the ending coming and still have trouble believing something like this could happen. The book interweaves twins throughout. Setterfield writes about the powerful connections of twins. Sometimes overdoing it a bit. This is the only minor flaw in a story so captivating.