Friday, November 18, 2016

thirteenth tale

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel is by Diane Setterfield. This was Setterfield's first book, as far as I can tell, and her second was released 7 years later in 2013. I wonder if this means what I think it does, namely; that she began writing later in her life, and that she spends a fair amount of time writing and re-writing. I'm guessing about the re-writing, but that's based on how well this book was plotted, and how well she maintained the tension, and mystery in the story. And when I finally did figure it out, it was only when Setterfield wanted me too.

Setterfield seems like a reader to me, a trait which is reflected in her protagonist, with whom she shares not only a love of reading, but specifically, a love of older English Romance tales, with a Gothic tilt; think Jane Eyre. And that's how this spooky, mysterious novel feels to me as well. It was a great follow-on for the recent books I've read, especially The Supernatural Enhancements. Setterfield sets a wonderful tone from the very beginning of the book, as she introduces the young, quiet, bookworm of a woman, who lives upstairs from her father's bookshop, and has felt something missing from her live for as long as she can remember. Her relationship with this loss, is almost a comfort to her as she does her researches into the old books in her father's shop, and tries to bring the old authors back into to the light. Wondering all the while whether or not these long-dead authors felt a wisp of acknowledgement, when she opened their forgotten writings.

Her researches capture the attention of a very popular but aging British author who invites the young woman to her mansion so that she can finally tell her life story. The tale of Vida Winter's long and interesting life is slowly spun out, and gets spookier and stranger as time goes along. So strange that the young author goes off to do some investigating of her own, and the story just gets stranger The history of Winter's family includes sudden deaths, possible murder, metal illness, physical abuse, illegitimate births, neglect, a crumbling family estate, mysterious happenings, and you know... a ghost or two.

I enjoyed this one very much and I'll be looking for Setterfield's second novel: Bellman & Black. Read this book.

[edited for English and grammar: 1 Jan 2017. If you see something, say something.]

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