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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
audio book (13 cassettes: 15 hrs, 45 min)

*** The Story ***

Margaret Lea, reclusive daughter of an antique book dealer, is invited to the home of the prolific author Vida Winter. Ms. Winter’s novels are widely read and loved but no one knows anything about her background. Upon arrival, Margaret learns that Ms. Winter is ill and wants to tell her life story to someone before she dies.

The rest of the book alternates between the fascinating story of where Ms. Winter came from and what is going on in the present day as Margaret records her story.

*** What I Liked ***

Oh how I loved this book! The story within a story, the deep love of reading, the strange characters … there is good and evil and everything in between. I’ve seen this referred to as a Gothic novel and I’d have to agree. It just has that *feel* about it, what with a dilapidated old mansion, numerous recluses, and mysterious happenings.

As Nymeth so aptly put it in her review, “It’s no wonder that The Thirteenth Tale is so immensely popular among book bloggers. It truly is a book for book lovers.”

And the narration on the audio book was amazing. There are two narrators, Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner, one for Margaret’s point of view and one for Ms. Winter’s point of view. Between the two of them they conveyed a whole passel of character voices. There was no confusion as to who was speaking at any given time. In fact, their narration really made the book for me.

And I loved the ending. Wait, that’s *not* a spoiler! I’m not talking about the ending of the plot here. What I’m talking about is the way Margaret tells us what happens to all the minor characters at the end of the story. She, like any book lover, always wants to know about the secondary characters in a book; what happened to the maid, the best friend, the old lover, and so on after the story concluded? So she tells us all those things after Ms. Winter’s story concludes. Aah … how I loved that.

*** What I Didn't Like ***

There is just one thing that I didn’t like about this book. And really, this is a very minor thing to gripe about. The rest of the book was so wonderful, creepy and suspenseful and intriguing, that I hate to even bring it up, but I will anyway.

Since this is a spoiler-free review I won’t spell out what it is; those who have read the book should be able to tell what I’m talking about anyway.

There is a part of Margaret’s story that heavily influences who she is. I don’t understand that part. I mean, I understand the facts but I don’t understand why it affects her the way it does. Granted, I have never had that experience but it did seem very foreign to me, almost contrived. For those who know what I’m talking about, did you have the same reaction or does it make complete sense to you?

*** Want More? ***

I have another post coming on Monday about the literary and pop culture connections I found while reading this book – be sure to come back and check it out!

In the meantime you can check out what other bloggers have to say about The Thirteenth Tale:
Want your review added to the list? Just post a comment with the link!


Robin M said...

Great review and it makes me want to read the story again. The part that heavily influences Margaret's story - I have a vague recollection and yes, I had to read that part a couple times. I wasn't sure about it. I definitely will be revisiting the book. Thanks for your review.


Anonymous said...

The part the heavily influences Margaret's story is a bit odd, but makes the book more interesting because of the connection it gives her to Vida Winter. I think it is also related to the illness she had when the doctor prescribed that unusual medicine. Her other experiences lead her to be a bit, overdramatic perhaps?

Anyway, I'm ALMOST done with this on audio and it has been fantastic.

Anna said...

I've wanted to read this for a long time. I'm going to borrow Serena's copy whenever she finishes. :)

Diary of an Eccentric

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit odd, I agree, but I thought it gave Margaret some depth. She seemed so reasonable and eccentric at the same time. This I felt made her character make more sense. Then again, I'm strange :-)

Ana S. said...

I felt the same way as you. I couldn't related to that at all. Maybe you need to have experienced it to understand it, but it did strike me as overdramatic.

Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

Anonymous said...

I need a new audio book, but it would take me a long time to listen to 15 hours unless I took a trip.

Anonymous said...

This book has been on my TBR shelf for a looong time... I need to bring it to the top of the list! Thanks for a great review.

christina said...

Thanks for sharing! I've had this on my TBR shelf forever. I've heard so many good things about the book, but never what it was really about. *grin*

valentina said...

I didn't care much about that part either, but I suppose it creates a link between Margaret and Vida.I must admit any time that storyline was brought up I was really impatient to go back to the main one!

Lisa said...

I'm with you, I didn't understand that part at all. It almost seemed like she just let it drop without making the connection she had hoped for.

My review is here:

Mahlie said...

Hmm, I think perhaps we have completely opposite taste in books:

My entry contains some spoilers, too.

Kelly said...

I just finished this and didn't realize you had reviewed it before! I feel mostly the same way you do. I agree that Margaret's storyline felt a little contrived. All in all I liked the book, though!

Dreamybee said...

Hi Heather! I'm linking to your review!

I totally got the part about Margaret's story. I can't relate to it at all, but given Miss Winter's story, I think it helped explain why Margaret was so dramatically affected the way she was. I suppose it wasn't really essential to the plot, but I do think it added some depth to Margaret's character.

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