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The Thirteenth Tale (2006)
by Diane Setterfield
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I instantly fell for this book and was drawn to the story when I first read it when it was first published. To my dismay I have also listened to it on audible more Han I have actually read it. Audible is great on long drives if you are the driver. I must read the book again, I missed too many hints. I have realized last night that bbc actually made a film from the book. Films are never as good as the books, but Vanessa Redgrave is fabulous.
A gothic novel in the classic tradition done right. Think Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre (which even plays a cameo).
Margaret Lea is the child of a rare books seller and his wife. She watches the shop and reads. In her spare time she writes biographies which is how she comes to the attention of Vida Winter.
Miss Winter, a famous and reclusive author, has created intricate stories about herself for years, never telling the truth of her past. Now elderly and ailing she is ready to draw the curtains back and tell the truth to Miss Lea.
The story switches between Miss Lea's story (in the present) and the recounting of Miss Winter's story (in the past). While Miss Winter tells her story, Miss Lea also ventures out to verify the facts as best she can. The novel spans years and generations and uncovers dark secrets. I honestly can't share much more about the plot without spoilers and I wouldn't want to.
Admittedly it gets off to a bit of a slow start. There was nothing off-putting about the beginning but I was 20% in before I felt it pick up. But once it gets going (around when Vida and Margaret meet), it roars ahead full at speed.
There are twists and secrets abounding and with the close of each chapter, more questions need answers and always Miss Winter insists that we wait for the whole story to be told.
Having read this during October, in the midst of my annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, it took me longer to finish than it otherwise would have. This was definitely a page turner for me and that doesn't happen all that often. There were several times when I was loathe to close the book in order to get to movie watching!
If you like gothic suspense, then I'm reasonably sure this book will tick the boxes. It ticks enough of the boxes and it stays true to the classic style while bringing its own flavour. I was invested in the story and needed to know the secrets of Vida Winter and Angelfield. I'm happy to say that this was the @badass.book.bitches pick for October and I'm grateful again that there are cool women who read (or listen to) stuff with me.
PRATELEIRA EUNICE1 LIVRO 19
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.
Some books are just a really good read, and this one falls into that category. I came close to awarding it that fifth star because the storytelling was just really compelling, but there were some aspects that just pushed my personal boundaries of believability which kept me from handing out that final star.
The Thirteenth Tale is primarily a story of two twin girls, Adeline and Emmeline, who come into the world under less than ideal circumstances. It starts off with the daughter of a bookseller, Margaret Lea, who is selected to write the biography of one of the twins who is extremely ill. It turns out to be one hell of a biography.
It's hard to share much about the plot because it has many of the elements of a mystery and to say too much is to spoil it, but what I can say is it has so many terrific elements . . .a gothic feel a la Jane Eyre, tragedy, incest, extremely intriguing characters, a pretty satisfying ending, and a plot twist. All wrapped up in super accessible, fast moving prose. What's not to like?
A family saga with Gothic overtones, dark secrets, lost twins, a tragic fire, a missing manuscript and over-obvious nods to Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Woman in White, it reads like something a creative writing class might write as a committee, for the sole purpose of coming up with a novel that would suit a book group (and tellingly, there are "Reading Group Study Notes" at the back suggesting topics for discussion).
The Thirteenth Tale is not without fault. The gentle giant Aurelius is a stock character, and the ending is perhaps a little too concerned with tying up all loose ends. But it is a remarkable first novel, a book about the joy of books, a riveting multi-layered mystery that twists and turns, and weaves a quite magical spell for most of its length.
"The Thirteenth Tale" keeps us reading for its nimble cadences and atmospheric locales, as well as for its puzzles, the pieces of which, for the most part, fall into place just as we discover where the holes are. And yet, for all its successes -- and perhaps because of them -- on the whole the book feels unadventurous, content to rehash literary formulas rather than reimagine them.
A book that you wake in the middle of the night craving to get back to...Timeless, charming, a pure pleasure to read...The Thirteenth Tale is a book to savor a dozen times.
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When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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When renowned yet reclusive author Vida Winter summons biographer Margaret Lea to write her life story, Margaret is skeptical but intrigued. As Vida's story unfolds, Margaret soon becomes engrossed in the disturbing details of the strange and mysterious Anglefield family and the events that led to their destruction.
As a fan of gothic literature, the premise of this book was very appealing. Unfortunately, it falls decidedly flat mainly due to the awkward story-within-a-story structure. While the plot revolving around the decidedly creepy Angelfields is engrossing, Vida and Margaret's odd relationship detracts from the mystery and it is difficult to care about either of the protagonists. Consequently, when the twists are finally revealed, it is too little too late.
This book proves just how difficult it is for modern authors to capture the true essence of gothic writing. ( )