Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ****

This one was recommended by a co-worker, she said she couldn't put it down and now I can see why! Though the time period is never clear, the action takes place in England and it is like a modern Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, with all the Gothic horror to go with it.

A biographer, Margaret Lea, is summoned by the most famous writer in Great Britain, Vida Winter, to write her life story. Miss Winter has given at least 200 versions of what her life was like to 200 different reporters, all of which are untrue. Haunted by one young man from the past who asked her for the truth, Miss Winter decides to finally reveal her origins to Margaret. But is this the truth this time?

Like my friend told me, this is a very engrossing story that will leave you pondering how it all fits together until you get to the end. I'm not the most romantic person in the world, so I had a hard time suspending my disbelief at certain points in the book, but overall it was a great read and filled with interesting character studies. The twists and turns were at times hard to follow, but when looked at in the context of a master storyteller giving her last performance, I could believe that Miss Winter could tell her story in this way.

Another aspect of this book is it's description of the love of reading. This was one of my favorite parts, because I feel as compelled as the character Margaret to read all that comes within my grasp too. All the books of the world are there to be read, and when you look at them you realize that all their authors were trying in their own way to keep themselves alive, to make a monument to their knowledge to pass on. Even the most dull textbook from 100 years ago is of some value, because it contains the life work of someone. It is an attempt to continue one's soul beyond our earthly scope.

So if you like a good Gothic mystery in Jolly Old England, or if you just love to read, I think you will like this book.

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