Friday, February 6, 2009

6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea is an irresistible narrator. The back story of her character provided the basis for this entire literary suspense novel. While I tend to look down on sensationalism and mystery, this book was so well written as almost to obliterate my prejudices. The book is infused with smooth literary references and the absolute truth of certain lines is memorable and valuable.

Perhaps I was seduced more than other readers would be by the bookshop Lea grows up in, and by the two main characters, Lea and Miss Winter. Like Margaret, I am quiet and bookish. Like Miss Winter, I write dark stories and have green eyes.

I was quite impressed by Setterfield's description of settings. It has been a long time since I have been able to so vividly picture a place in a book. Yet, again and again, from the bookshop to Miss Winter's home to the dilapidated estate Angelfield, I felt as if I were there too. This kind of skill is particularly important to a suspense novel.

The main story centers on Miss Winter's alleged biography, which Margaret is transcribing. Vida Winter is a world-famous British author of several novels, yet she never tells anyone the truth about where she came from. Whether she really is telling Margaret the truth is part of the mystery. The story, while alluring, was not all it could have been for me because I've heard it all before. What is with the current craze on incest and mental disturbance in old aristocratic families? From Philippa Gregory's Wideacre Trilogy to the Bastard of Istanbul, I'm sick of it.

I don't need more deviant sex, or even the implication of it in my books. I WANT THIS TREND TO BE OVER. It's not liberating at this point, it's just...boring. *end rant*

I would recommend The Thirteenth Tale despite my objections merely for the sake of what I did love about it. It is an engrossing read, and I am curious as to whether it will stand the test of time.

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