>> Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Genre: Ghost story/ Gothic Suspense
Challenge: RIP II #3
From the inside cover flap:
This book was one of the hot books last fall. I waited to read it for a couple of reasons. At first, it was because I wanted to wait till it wasn’t the book everyone seemed to be reading at the same time, and later because I wanted to save it for this year’s RIP challenge. I’m glad I waited, because it was a perfect RIP book.
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 historiesfor 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.
It’s very gothic, with a little bit of Jane Eyre, a teensy tad of Flowers in the Attic, and bits and pieces from other gothic and ghost stories. Primarily it’s a book about stories – some true, some not. As a reader I loved all the little comments about books and reading. I liked the way the intricately woven mystery built throughout the book. The twists and turns and hints keep coming. It definitely held my interest and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure it’ll make my top 5 of the year, but maybe my top 10.
Here are just a few quotes that I tagged along the way:
I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous.
People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them.
Whether by luck or accident I cannot say, but I found my way to the library a full twenty minutes earlier than I had been commanded to attend. It was not a problem. What better place to kill time than a library? And for me, what better way to get to know someone than through her choice and treatment of books?
Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.
Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you?