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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Thirteenth Tale

Author: Setterfield, Diane
Originally Published: 2006
Publisher: Bond Street Books, a division of Random House

The Thirteenth TaleI feel I may be the last person in the blogosphere to read this book, because I have read so many people raving about it. (With good reason.)

Margaret is a bookish type girl. Works in her father’s bookstore; writes biographies of dead and forgotten people. When she comes home one day, it’s to find a letter addressed to her from Vida Winter – one of the world’s favourite and most beloved authors. Miss Winter is writing to ask Margaret to write her biography; she’s very sick, has been making up tales as to who she is for years, and finally wants to tell the truth. And the true story that Miss Winter tells Margaret is … interesting seems like such an understatement. Riveting, mysterious . . . heartbreaking. (I use that word too much. I need to pick up other words that convey the same feeling.)

Sitting down to blog about this book, there are so many things going through my head that I could write about. I’m having a hard time deciding exactly what to go with. This was such a good book; although it was a mite predictable, I devoured the last two thirds in the span of a day. And it’s put me in the mood to re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and revisit Manderley for the umpteenth time – though have a hard time justifying that as there are so many other books here that I haven’t read that I want to. (Maybe I’ll just have to rent the Hitchcock movie at some point soon instead.)

This was an underlining book. Whole passages were crying out to be underlined. That’s a big thing – I have a hard time underlining books; want to keep them in pristine condition most of the time and all. But there are certain books with sentences or passages that are SO GOOD that you need to underline said sentence or passage so you can find it easier when you need to read a certain sort of passage. So yes, a whole lot of passages wanted to be underlined. But, really, what can you expect with passages like this:

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? You leave the precious book with ideas and themes – characters even – caught in the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you.

I had two other main thoughts while reading the book. The first was that I hope it was just a typo when the name “Ariane” was used, and that the author really does know her Greek mythology. If you’re going to reference the Mistress of the Labyrinth, you should know her name.

Secondly, I realized that the name Hester is an empty name. Incomplete. If you stick a “Gray” on the end, though, it rather comes to life.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 9:01 pm January 21, 2007.
Category: Gothic
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  • http://prettycunning.net/blog Fence

    Not quite the last person :) I still haven’t even seen this book although everywhere I go I read about it.

  • http://www.bluecastleseeker.blogspot.com melrose plant

    I did find this book a little over-rated and found some of the plot devices completely unnecessary. But the part that put me in mind of Manderlay were very much appreciated

  • http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com Carl V.

    Glad you enjoyed it. I read it early and think it is wonderful. One of the most entrancing books I have ever read. As beautiful for the fact that it revels in a love of reading as it was for the story itself. It is very evocative of Rebecca, good call. This is one of those books that I wish everyone could have read before hearing any hype as the hype has really spoiled what could have been a magical experience for some people.