Sunday, 30 January 2011
The Thirteenth Tale: Review
by Diane Setterfield
Published in 2006
Published by Washington Square Press
I borrowed this book from a friend and I was not paid for this review.
When a well known figure refuses to tell us their life story, we tend to get a bit annoyed. They're famous! How can they possibly expect any privacy?! As ridiculous as I know that is, I am just as guilty as anyone else on this count. I want to know about the authors who write my favourite books, the actors in the movie I just watched or the latest television series I happen to be obsessing over (Dexter and Castle right now) and, I hate to admit, love to read the Entertainment section on the news website. Normally before I read the world news.
So imagine, then, the intrigue of being approached by a hugely successful and reclusive author to be the one person to whom she will tell her full story. It's enough to get Margaret Lea to leave the comfort zone of her father's bookstore and venture up to the Yorkshire Moors to meet Vida Winter. Ms. Winter is the grand mistress of fantastical fiction, especially fantastical are the tales she tells to nosey journalists who ask about her personal life. But this time she intends to tell the truth. She has a painful past to get out of her system and time is running out.
This novel spins together all of the threads I love the best: a bookworm heroine, the dark, blustery setting of the moors, an old house, a terrible family secret (or three) and beautiful writing. As Ms. Winter reveals more about her past, you can't help but be completely enveloped by her story and the fact that half the time she's withholding vitals bits of information that Margaret has to unearth herself only makes it all the more fascinating.
The best bit about this novel for me was that it felt a little bit like Wuthering Heights revisited. It has this wonderfully atmospheric feel to it which triggers a sort of primal urge to throw caution to the wind and sprint across the moors in the middle of a storm. Like Wuthering Heights it kept me riveted, unable to tear myself away from the story unless my husband staged a physical intervention and removed the book from my white-knuckled hands. Basically, this book is one that is at once literary, enjoyable and thoroughly engaging. It is one that I think would be safe to recommend without abandon and I do. If you haven't already read it and you're looking for a great read, this is one for you.
Have you read this book? If you have, what did you think?