Monday, July 27, 2009 By: Suzanne

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I had been noticing this book for some time since it came out but had yet to read it. Even after I bought it, it sat on my shelf for a couple months while I read other things before pulling it out. Maybe I needed to read it at the right time, whatever that may have been, but I wish I had read this sooner. It is a wonderful book and beautifully written. I'm always amazed when an author's first book is this good. You know they were born to be writers, they don't even seem to have to work at it. Maybe she does, maybe she spends hours constructing the perfect sentence but I doubt it. This book flows as if she just thought of the words yesterday and wrote them all down as the came to her without any editing at all.

The Thirteenth Tale is about an author (another theme that author's never seem to tire of, especially Stephen King, but that's another post for another time), Vida Winter, who in the last years of her life has decided to finally tell the world the truth about her past. She is one of the world's best known authors and her books are always best sellers but she has become as famous for her fictional stories about her past as she is for her books. Several times a year she grants interviews in which the journalist asks for the story of her life. Vida Winter never disappoints, that is, she never tells the truth. Now she's ready and she's decided that Margaret Lea is the perfect person to tell it to. Only Margaret has a secret of her own and Ms. Winter's life is all too close to her own pain.

I loved this book from the moment I began to read. Like I said, Setterfield's writing flows in a way that is like she's talking to you, not writing. It's as captivating as an oral story can be when done well. This may have been a good book to get the audio for, maybe I'll still do that. In fact, most of the book is Ms. Winter telling her story to Margaret in the library of her house. It would be neat to just take the parts of her childhood story and have them put into an oral story. I was drawn in to Vida Winter's childhood in the odd mansion with the family that's not quite right. It reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, though I'm sure that's on purpose since Jane Eyre is mentioned several times throughout the book. I did find one glaring error that should have probably been caught in the editing but it wasn't something that would ruin the story. Just something that made an "ah-ha" moment for Margaret not so momentous as it should have been. I won't mention it, because if you don't notice it won't bother you and I don't like to write spoilers if I don't have to. But if you've read the book and are curious about what I'm talking about, I'll let you know in comments with a big spoiler tag on it.


Anonymous said...

I really l;iked this book, but don't remember the moment you are talking about. You should share it here!