#22 ~ The Thirteenth Tale

May 12, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Books, Gothic Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 4 Comments
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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

It took me a while to read this book, but that is not because it wasn’t interesting and delightful. Suffice to say that sometimes work gets in the way of life. I completely enjoyed reading a Gothic ghost story once again. I keep forgetting how much I enjoy them. There’s something about a misty, haunted moor filled with secrets and lies to keep my interest until the very end.

The narrator, an avid reader, lives above her father’s bookstore. From a very young age Margaret spent a majority of her time reading. Her ability to read expanded once she began working at the store full-time. The store is full of exotic books, but it is not the main way in which their livings are earned. Her father has a knack for finding the most difficult books. Four of those sales a year is all they need.

Her life is sheltered within this world of books until she is offered the opportunity to write the biography of one of Britian’s greatest living novelists. Vida Winter spent her life spinning tales when asked about her private life. To Margaret, she wants to come clean. Margaret’s family also has its secrets that keeps her at arms length from her mother. After some discussion with her father, she accepts the position and makes a temporary move to Ms. Winter’s estate.

The world of shadows, ghosts, and mentally unstable relatives unfolds for Margaret during sessions with the author in her library. As Margaret tries to tie together loose ends and prove to herself that Ms. Winter is not making a fool of her, the reader is, too. The rules that Ms. Winter put in place about not asking questions and not jumping ahead in the story are as tantalizingly frustrating to the reader as they are to the narrator.

The conclusion to this book is reminiscent to many other Gothic novels. Asylum by Patrick McGrath came to mind. It, by far, is my favorite book in this genre. I finished the book with satisfaction. It was nice to not feel disappointed. The fact that I wasn’t longing for more is not negative. It felt complete and that is a joy to me. Not everything has to end with Scarlett tormented on the stairs determined to get Rhett back after first rejuvenating her soul at Tara.

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