Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

“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."
-The Thirteenth Tale

I picked this book up on the advice of my son’s kindergarten teacher (Thank you Justine). It began a little bit slow for my taste and I ended up putting it down several times, but by the time I had finally worked my way through the first three chapters I was completely engrossed. The plot was brilliant and once it got going, very well-paced

Love, deceit, secrets, violence, mental illness and truly disturbing imagery… this book pays homage to nineteenth century British literature, a great gothic mystery novel along the lines of those by Bronte or Radcliffe. The Thirteenth Tale tells the disturbing story of reclusive author Vida Winter (I picture her as an ancient Danielle Steel). After spending the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself, both intriguing and confusing her readers for years, she is ready to disclose the truth about her astonishing life and the tragic past she has managed to keep hidden for so long. To tell her story she enlists the help of budding biographer Margaret Lea who, it turns out, has secrets of her own.

I don’t want to divulge too many details about this book, partly because I don’t want to spoil it for you and partly because I am not sure I can conceivably do it justice. It is difficult to believe that this is Setterfield’s first novel, it is so skillfully written and the passages so descriptive that you feel as though you are there.

Should you take my advice and decide to read this book I suggest you first prepare yourself, find a comfy chair in front of a warm fireplace, because once you start this book you will be reluctant to put it down. This is a novel that pulls you in and refuses to let you go. After you have turned the final page and find yourself unmoving, trying to take it all in, you will swear that you can feel that cold English fog slowing weaving its way around your mind.

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