Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale

I read this book by Diane Setterfield many years ago and absolutely loved it. (My woefully short review is here.) I just spent a lovely weekend re-reading it for book club. This is one of those times I am grateful that I can rarely remember what happens in books and movies because I had forgotten everything that happens in this wonderful novel.

First of all, Setterfield is a beautiful writer. Her prose is poetry, her insight speaks to my core. Next, Setterfield is a masterful storyteller. This is a book that is hard to put down, the kind you keep thinking about as you go about your day and can't wait to get back to when your day's activities are finished. I even took the luxury of reading this one on the couch during the day, which I don't usually do.

This is a kind of ghost story, a mystery, a love story, a story of families gone horribly wrong and also being repaired or forged anew.  It's a story of discoveries and confirmations. Famous author Vida Winter is dying, and she wants someone to tell her true story. She picks Margaret, a quiet young woman who works in her father's bookstore.  Margaret reluctantly enters into this relationship as Vida Winter's biographer but ultimately does everything she can to find the truth in Vida's tale.

The novel was a big hit in our book club, and we rarely all love a book. One of our members pointed out that it is extremely disturbing. There are scenes that are hard to scrub out of one's memory, although I assured her that I had no recollection of those scenes these many years after reading it for the first time. We all agreed that we wanted to underline whole paragraphs because Setterfield's writing is so beautiful, especially when she is talking about the power of families and the necessity of books.

I'm glad I had a chance to read The Thirteenth Tale again, and I am excited to see that Setterfield finally has another novel due to be published in November, Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story. If you like Kate Morton, you'll love Diane Setterfield.

Linked up at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books


Alex said...

I read The Thirteenth Tale when it first came out and absolutely loved it, too. I agree that Setterfield is a beautiful writer and I'm glad to see a new book is coming out.

Anonymous said...

This is the second time in the last few weeks I've been reminded why I have this book on my wishlist. I should really read more from my wishlist!

Thanks for the review