Monday, April 20, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (audio)


Not long ago, I realized that The Thirteenth Tale, the debut novel by Diane Setterfield, had taken the blogger world (and the rest of the world too) by storm, and I'd been left out. And I hate being left out. I'd read countless rave reviews, and was finally convinced to set my reading challenge books aside to witness this spectacle I'd heard so much about.

It is a novel written for book lovers, which explains the fervor. Margaret Lea is the daughter of a antique book dealer and a novice biographer, with secrets in her past that have left her a withdrawn, haunted young woman. She is mystified when she is summoned by Vida Winter, the world's most recognized and published storyteller, to write the story of her life. Vida seems to have some secrets of her own, and has lied about her past to interviewers time and time again. To Margaret, however, she vows to tell the truth.

So we begin on a journey back into time. Throughout daily sittings, Vida tells Margaret about a family that spawned madness, about ghosts, and twins, and love and murder. As she progresses through the story, Vida's tale becomes dense with twisted layers of mystery. Margaret begins to do some independent research, and with it, she not only uncovers more clues to the history of Vida's life, but some insight to her own.

This is storytelling at its absolute finest...a tale you can get lost in. The characters are flawed, quirky and rich, the plot is wonderfully twisted and keeps you guessing right to the end. But, at the end, the pieces fit nicely together and all questions are answered and tied up with a big red ribbon.

The setting is strangely without specific indicators to its era. There are cars, so that narrows it down. But the atmosphere feels decidedly old and Gothic. There is mention to a "computing machine" but is not actively used, which makes me think that while it is not modern times, it is not so far back either. I expended some mental energy on this riddle, and just added to the overall charm.

I listened to this book on audio, and I would highly recommend it. There are two narrators...one for Vida Winter, and one for Margaret and the other characters, and it works well. Without a doubt, this book would be in my top 5 reads of the year thus far.

So, I'm starting to feel easy again. I know it is irritating to read only glowing reviews of everything I put my hands on! Is it because I do so much research on what I read that I only pick the really good ones? Am I not critical enough? I'm not sure! I'm worried about myself. I swear, I am not Miss Merry Sunshine. I'll see if I can't pull a bad one out for you soon!

21 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I enjoyed this book, but thought it had a few flaws. I can't remember what they were though - If only i had been blogging when I read it! I think I'd have given it 8/10. Perhaps someone else can remember what wasn't quite right about it?

Don't worry about only having good reviews. I think it is great! Long may the good reviews come!

Frances said...

I love your sunny disposition, Sandy! Don't change a thing here. I really enjoyed this book and remember it as a quick, engrossing read for book lovers as you suggest. Few time reading I though A.S. Byatt lite. And I don;t mean that in a negative way.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I soooo want to read this one! I've had it forever and my darn review books keep getting in my way. :)

Molly said...

I actually started listening to this one on audio and loved it so much I knew I wanted to have it in print. This book is one of my all time favorites -- and I am glad that you enjoyed it as well!! I can hardly wait for her to publish a 2nd novel!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - OK, now I am wracking my brain to figure out what the flaws were, that I so joyously overlooked!

Frances - well thank you! I still feel like I need to get a little hard-nosed on something. I don't think it will be on "Night" by Elie Wiesel though, which is what I am currently reading. How dare I knock him?

Melissa - I got through this book pretty easily. It would be a great book to curl up and read on a rainy day!

Molly - it is great to hear from you! I agree, the audio was wonderful. I kept trying to imagine what my mind would do with the story if I were to read it! It is hard to imagine this is a debut novel, and am also really excited about the next one. I hope it lives up to this one!

Melody said...

I loved this book! The setting is all so mysterious and gothic, isn't it? And yes, I really liked how the story ends; it left me a "Wow" feeling and I remember I felt like gushing to my husband after that even though I know he's not into novels.

I'm hoping Diane Setterfield will have a new release out soon!!!

ds said...

Oh, goody! A book for the pile that is actually on a shelf (yes, I have resorted to raiding the college student's shelf)! Which means I might actually get to it! Hooray! Please don't worry about your positive reviews--we all trust you. If you say something is good, it's good. And cheerfulness is a lovely quality to keep hold of these days.

ds said...

Hi again!
Just want you to know that I listed you (again) for the "You Don't Say?"--how could I not--but obviously you're not to do anything about it (you already have). It's just because I appreciate your visits and the words that come with them.

Carrie K. said...

I absolutely loved this book - and I want to read it again! I read the print version the first time; I should see if the library has the audiobook.

Literary Feline said...

Isn't this one wonderful? I love the story and the characters. :-) I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - I've given up gushing to my husband about books, unless it has something specifically to do with him! He doesn't understand! I don't know when her next book is coming out, but I know she's working on one.

ds - This one is worth moving up a few notches on the pile. Good stuff! BTW, thank you for your mention in your blog. You are so kind!

Carrie - That is a great idea. I find it is a completely different experience. In this case, its a good one!

Wendy - thank you! See this is why I felt left out. I kept hearing you guys talk about it!

Beth F said...

I listened to this book TWICE! (pre blogging, so no review). I loved it and you are right that it is wonderful on audio. The two voices were perfect.

Jackie: It probably did have flaws, but I guess they didn't bother me.

My sister-in-laws are identical twins, so books with twins in them are required reading for all of us.

Iliana said...

Glad the book lived up to your expectations especially after you'd heard so much about it. I liked it a lot but I didn't love it and I wonder if it was because I read it right when all the buzz was about. Sometimes I think it's best to let the buzz die down for a bit.... then again you feel left out and I don't like that either :)

Savidge Reads said...

Like Jackie I read this in my pre-blogging days and really enjoyed it. I also like Jackie would have given it 8/10 (spooky) I think the ending was a little too conoluted, though brilliant, if that makes sense? Great review of a great book.

C. B. James said...

I think I have this one in my TBR pile. I think I tried to read it once and gave up for some reason.

I just bought an iPod which has an audiobook feature....hmmm.......maybe......

How much do audiobooks cost over the net anyway?

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - Wow! You really loved it! I wouldn't mind reading it in hard copy...I may do that. This book gave me a whole different perspective on twins, which we have many running around the school these days.

Iliana - I know, sometimes it is dangerous to read something recently hyped. Luckily, I think I was on the downhill side of things. I tend to avoid things in their greatest moments of hype.

Simon - There WERE many threads to unravel on this one, but I loved it. I think it did a decent job of explaining most of the loose ends though!

James - audios can be pretty expensive. Once in awhile you can find the music downloading sites that give you some freebies, but iTunes can charge $20 to $40 an audio. Your best best is to rent from the library and download. Downside is that you are hostage to their selection (or lack of).

Matt said...

Looks like after your great review the spectacle of the book will continue on. I'll check this one out. :)

Dar said...

Sandy, I loved this book too. As for reviewing I'm the same. I think maybe I really focus on what I like about a book instead of looking for negative. I don't know. To be honest I haven't read a lot of what I would call bad books. If they're that bad, I've quit reading them early on and they never make it to the blog. I've read so-so ones but even there I find something I like. So I don't think you're not critical enough. YOu're just enjoying what you're reading.

JoAnn said...

I've seen many positive reviews, but now you've convinced me. It's going on my audible list right now! Thanks for the review.

Anna said...

You're the second person I've heard praise the audio version of this book. I've had my eye on this one for a while. I'll have to break down and either read it or listen to it soon.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Bernadette said...

hi - I absolutely loved this book. Read it 3 times, mainly because I had to discuss it at our book club meeting. BTW, my maiden name was Nawrot!!!