Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

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The Thirteenth Tale

Author: Diane Setterfield
ISBN: 9780743298032
Buy: On Flipkart

A story about stories… a story about lies… a writer… a biographer… of lost selves….

Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, is an eerie story. It gave me goosebumps and had me wishing I was not alone at home that night. Another book for book lovers, I raced through it in just over a day. I had to keep turning the pages, fighting sleep at night, because I needed to find out what had happened. This is a story of the past as much as a story of the present and the future.

There are very clear glimpses of Rebecca – a presence in the house that is felt, but never seen. Jane Eyre is also a strong influence here – both in the Gothic Victorian-ness of the story, as well as by making an appearance in the plot itself.

Vida Winter is a famous novelist who has managed to hide her real story from the world by making up different versions of it every time she was asked. When her health begins to fade, she hires a little-known biographer, Margaret Lea, to finally chronicle her fantastic story. We enter a world of twisted adventures, unstable adults, poverty, neglect and, of course, mystery. Dark family secrets are slowly revealed. During the course of this revelation, both Vida and Margaret come face to face with their pasts and have to make peace with their ghosts.

The plot is beautifully woven and kept me guessing for some time into the story. (There are clues, of course, and motifs that run through the plot – which you will pick up on). This is a mystery novel that expertly takes you through a Gothic world and has you wondering if the ghosts are metaphorical or “real”.

As befits a story about books and writing, many old all-time favourites like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility and Sherlock Holmes make their appearances. The homage to them is clear and so is the author’s love of these books and their worlds.

Diane Setterfield is an artful storyteller who fills this novel with fluid language and eccentric characters that make The Thirteenth Tale a more than interesting read. Definitely recommended.

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Anonymous said...

interesting.. ye bhi try maroongi :D

September 19, 2010 at 6:37 PM
Kaddu said...

:D Don't forget to tell us how you liked it! Do u write book reviews too?

September 19, 2010 at 10:42 PM
Abhiroop Banerjee said...

Nice to come across a review for The Thirteenth Tale. Recommended, specially for those with a fondness for Victorian classics. Spooky fun :)

November 2, 2010 at 1:29 PM
Kaddu said...

I personally have an aversion to Victorian classics. But my sister usually likes them. No. Correction. "Loves them".

November 2, 2010 at 1:41 PM
stargazerpuj said...

@abhiroop - This one is spooky and beautiful. Rather predictable plot, but I didn't mind that at all.

November 2, 2010 at 3:53 PM
Abhiroop Banerjee said...

@Kaddu- What are you reading these days?

@stargazerpuj- yep, yep. I know what you mean. For me, it was the characters, and my images of them, that made this book most enjoyable. I usually found myself reading it during rush hour commutes in the Delhi Metro and it was quite a feeling to be suddenly drawn into another world...

November 11, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Kaddu said...

Non fiction stuff... Reiki etc related. But in fiction, next on my list is 'Gone with the Wind'. Have seen the movie, which was very depressing, but now want to read the book too, because usually, movie adaptations of books aren't quite the same at all.

November 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM
Kaddu said...

What abt u though?

November 11, 2010 at 11:36 AM
Abhiroop Banerjee said...

You've been practicing Reiki, I believe, for many years now. Do consider sharing your recommendations for reading material on the subject, especially for beginners.

Gone with.. was depressing eh? The movie has been lying in my HDD for god knows how long now. Plan to watch it during my December vacation. Hopefully, will like it, and not just because I'm expected to like it.

Speaking of movie adaptations, I'd like to suggest a film titled The English Patient. Based on a beautiful novel of the same title 'the movie doesn't embarrass the book', as the friend who recommended it put it. There are a few scenes with nudity so watch it with caution if you plan to! :)

I'm reading a collection of short stories these days. The last one I read was called "A Ride in a Freight Car with a Mad Horse"!

November 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM
Kaddu said...

For beginners, I would recommend:
1. Empowerment through Reiki - by Paula Horan
2. Reiki Universal Life Energy - by Bodo J Baginski & Shalila Sharamon

Yeah, GWTW was really depressing... war etc. Or maybe I felt so because I could personally relate with the lead female (whatever was her name). Anyways, I'm really curious about its book version.

Thanks for the "tip" about The English Patient. I guess you remember that my Dad & I watch movies together during meal times! :D

November 11, 2010 at 12:09 PM

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