Monday, April 20, 2009
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Lea is the daughter of a antique book dealer and a novice biographer, with secrets in her past that have left her a withdrawn, haunted young woman.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!