Well, I'm very glad that my resident guest blogger has been reading while I've been on vacation. Julia is back with her review of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A really great read. If you read The Little Stranger, you would enjoy this one as well.
"It is funny that I have put off reading this book for so long. It has been recommended by many, and in fact, I have a strange connection to the book. My grandparents’ names were Ethel Violet and Ambrose Charles Setterfield; this book is dedicated to Corina Ethel and Ambrose Charles Setterfield. My mother contacted Diane Setterfield some time ago and they decided that they are somehow related, but not sure how.
I tell you this story, because it relates perfectly to this “Thirteenth Tale”. This book is all about families and relationships and the ways that people are related, both by blood and by shared experience.
The book is about Margaret Lea, a book seller who, with her father, runs a book store specializing in classics and antique books. Margaret receives a letter from Vida Winter, a popular and prolific, modern-day author, known for never telling the truth about her life, inviting Margaret to write her biography. Vida promises to tell the truth, much as she finds comfort in the “soothing, rocking safety of a lie”.
The story, the truth, is one about children abandoned and neglected. About a mother unable to cope and eventually institutionalized. About an uncle who retreats to his rooms to deal with his own demons. This book has all the elements of a good mystery: children living unsupervised in a mansion, adults who are unable to gain control of forces seemingly unexplainable, and haunting images of England in the cold and bleak winter months. Throughout the book the reader works through the puzzles presented to try to make sense of the story. From the beginning, Vida makes Margaret promise not to ask questions to jump ahead in the story, so as the reader, one must be patient and wait for the whole tale to unfold.
Ms. Setterfield writes with beautifully descriptive language for both large landscape descriptions, and to help the reader visualize the tiniest details. I could picture Angelfield (where the girls lived) both in its glory, and in its current state of ruin. The descriptions of the weather made me want to grab for a quilt to guard from the winter cold. And this: “… her frame was marked by only the smallest rise and fall in the bedclothes. Warily she stole each breath…” What a compelling and precise picture she paints!
Although this book was published in 2007, it would be a good one to pick up for summer reading this year. I look forward to the next novel by Diane Setterfield."
What a great review! Thanks Julia!