Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Also reviewed by Heather, Kari, and Kim

Summary: Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness--featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghost that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truths themselves. (Summary from book cover - Photo from

My review: Gracious me. I’m not going to divulge too much about this book, partly because I don’t want to spoil it for you and partly because I don’t think I can conceivably do it justice. The Thirteenth Tale is achingly, deliciously beautiful, while Setterfield’s writing is fluid and gorgeously descriptive.

Here’s a little excerpt from the book that illustrates what I mean:
“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."
Gives me goosebumps every time I read it. That paragraph pretty much sums up what this book did to me.

Setterfield has also mastered the art of well-timed revelation, waiting until just the right moment to let something slip, give a different perspective, or rock your entire world. I read it slowly because each chapter gave me something to think about – a new clue to the mystery, a secret finally told, that I wanted to mull over for a while. I can’t count the number of times that breath was literally taken from me by an unexpected twist in plot. The whole book gave me a feeling that there was more to know--that I hadn’t heard the whole story--so I kept reading. And reading. And reading. And I loved it. It was dizzying--an eerily haunting masterpiece of fiction.

Seriously, it’s that good.

My rating: 5 STARS!! It’s got some heavy topics (not inappropriate, just heavy) so don’t go giving it to your toddler or anything. There are a few moments of EWWWW that’ll likely make your skin crawl, but other than that, you don’t have much to worry about.

To sum it up: A dazzlingly marvelous read that you will not soon forget.


Heather said...

So glad you read this and enjoyed it. I can't wait to chat with you about it!

Irish said...

This would have to be one of my favourite reads this year!! ........ I really enjoyed it ... Not at all what I expected !!


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