Saturday, November 22, 2014

"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield

This book has been on my want-to-read list for ages, and when I recently came across it in a thrift shop I was ecstatic. It's sometimes difficult to come across the books I want most, even if they're as prolific as this one was.

The Thirteenth Tale has all the elements I love in books: a mansion, a ghost, an eccentric family, more than a passing mention of books, as well as quotable quotes. My expectations of it were more than a little high due to all of my favorite elements being in place- I was sure this would be one of the favorite books I read this year.

The Plot:
Margaret Lea receives a letter from famous author Vida Winter asking her to come and stay at her house while writing her biography. The problem? Vida Winter is infamous for spinning tales about her life that ultimately end up fiction. Will Margaret be able to get to the truth, or will Vida Winter remain a mystery?

This book had everything going for it, and yet... something was missing when I finished it. I had been able to predict many of the plot twists, the characters weren't my favorites, and the writing style left me wanting. The main part of the problem, as I see it, was this: Vida Winter is supposed to be the best storyteller in England. And although it took me no time at all to finish this, having a world famous author for a character may have sabotaged my enjoyment... because the writing wasn't my style.

The best element of this book is its story- even when I was able to see things coming, I still wanted to read it and be sure I was right. Although most of my hunches did come to pass, there was a twist to the story I didn't see which was very far-fetched. I may like fantasy and the sudden reversals authors are able to make in fiction, but to me it made little sense- I was disappointed with the big reveal of it, and it left me raising a brow in silent protest.

The Thirteenth Tale is about the vagaries in our own lives and how we are prone to embellishing them. I finished this book in two nights after making little progress in any of my other books for a week, so the pacing is clearly well done. In all honesty, this book disappointed me most because my expectations of it were so high. If you like a compelling story with gothic elements, this book might be more your cup of coffee.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great yarn that left me a bit disappointed.

Content: Ages 18+ for sadism, implied rape scenes, and violence.

Page Count: 406 pages in my hardcover edition

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