Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Julie's Review: The Thirteenth Tale

Author: Diane Setterfield
Series: None
Publication Date: October 9, 2007
Publisher: Washington Street Press
Pages: 432
Obtained: borrowed from a friend
Genre:  Gothic
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Underwhelming
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny. All children mythologize their birth... So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist. The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission. As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves. The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

Review: The Thirteenth Tale is a book that people seem to love but unfortunately I am not in that category. I was completely underwhelmed by the novel. I figured out aspects of the story early on and by the time she pulled out the big twist, I just didn't care.  It's not to say that Ms. Setterfield doesn't know how to set the tone and atmosphere of a novel because she certainly does. One of the things I enjoyed was her description of Angelfield both past and present. I felt like I could see the stately house both as it was when the twins were living there and now as a ruins.

I don't always feel like I have to connect  with the characters but I should either connect with them or be engrossed in their tale but I wasn't. I wasn't sure if Miss Winter was really going to be telling the truth to Margaret or if she was just going to lead her on a wild goose chase as well. Margaret was fighting her own demons as well. She has been keeping a secret from her parents and her parents have been keeping a secret from her. It would have all been easier for all of them if they would have just been honest.

My favorite character in the novel was Aurelius. Once introduced in the novel, I knew he would be an integral part of the story. I also feel like he was the one who got hurt the most and while he might have answers now, he'll never fully recover from the losses he has endured.

If you are into Gothic tales, then this one will definitely interest you but if I had to pick another Gothic tale to read again it would be Kate Morton's The Distant Hours.



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