Newest Review: ... story means. It is possibly one of the very first mysteries which is unravelled, though what is made obvious at the beginning, takes the w... more
To Read is to See!
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Member Name: elfbwillow1
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Advantages: Fantastic gothic mystery, great writing style, great characters
Disadvantages: Some very slow parts
As many people who read my reviews know, I tend to read a lot of fantasy based books, though I am also partial to books which take place in the 'real world' as such. I have to be in the right frame of mind to read a book such as this, and there are not many in which I have read that I have fully enjoyed, so these books do come few and far between. 'The Thirteenth Tale' is one such book which falls in the lines of the 'real world'. Of course, if a book was completely focused on the mundane every day experiences in life without even a tiny bit of 'magic' as such, I feel that it would not be so interesting. Luckily enough, this book takes the form of an almost Gothic suspense novel, though this time - there is not a vampire in sight!
THE LOVE OF A GOOD BOOK
"A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth."
Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating and manipulating Isabelle, her brutal and dangerous brother, Charlie, and the wild untamed twins; Emmeline and Adaline. Years later, though, the house is abandoned and desolate and conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates loudly in the present...
Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfields past with help from the mysterious old woman, Vida Winter, who is adept at telling stories, though which stories can Margaret believe, and which are purely from the great imagination of this well known author who now believes it is time to tell the truth?
Margaret spends weeks at the home of the old author, listening to her tale of the truth, though through the telling of the past, Margaret finds herself investigating the secrets of the house. What is the house hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?
They say never judge a book by its cover, and I feel that this is a partly true statement where this book is concerned. There are two covers for this novel, and neither jump out at you in my opinion. One shows the legs of two young girls, wearing the same clothes and shoes and standing on a wooden floor. The other shows a stack of old fashioned books. They do not jump out at you, though they do seem to hold some mystery which allows a prospective reader a slight insight into what might become of reading the pages. The cover, though, is nothing in comparison to the book itself.
It is not until you open the book and begin reading that you realise exactly what the title of the story means. It is possibly one of the very first mysteries which is unravelled, though what is made obvious at the beginning, takes the whole length of the book to actually have real answers. This is a reoccurring theme throughout, as so many questions and mysteries pop up throughout the novel, and most do not even begin to unravel until the novel starts to meet its end. Of course, the reader can make guesses and start to piece bits and pieces together, though Setterfield adds so many twists and turns that you will not be content until you have turned that very last page, and even then, there are some things in which are left open to a degree in order for the reader to make up their own mind. This can be annoying in other books, though in this novel it works to assist the greatness of the story.
The story is written in the first person point of view which is seemingly becoming very popular these days. It is not a completely straight forward first person view, though, as we see two stories emerge and overlap; The first and leading narrative coming from Margaret as she leaves her home and investigates the house and its inhabitants. The second is from the view of Vida Winter, the old lady author. This part is also seemingly split into two styles, the first as she talks about the past, weaving her story into the present, and the second is as though the story is unfolding before our eyes like a movie picture. This is spoken from the words of Vida, though it is also spelt out as though through someone else's eyes in many parts. This is a deliberate writing style which aids in the mystery and suspense of the story. In some books, these overlapping styles could become confusing or disjointed, though this book is written so well that there is no confusion at all.
Working alongside the first person view from these two characters, is the setting. This takes place both in the present as well as the past, driving through a great many years. When the narrative is about the past, dialogue is rarely shown, compared to the present, which is something that also helps lessen confusion.
Something which I found interesting is the literal 'Beginning', 'Middle' and 'End'. We all know that a good story needs all three of these, though the author has actually split the book into these three parts, with an extra addition to the end. I have read books which try to do this in the past, and have failed as they have no reasoning, though in this novel this split works perfectly and the meaning will become apparent as you read through each section.
I can not say that I was drawn into the book immediately. The beginning starts at an almost snails pace, and it takes almost a third of the way through before I found myself hanging on to every word, though that is not to say that the beginning is useless or disparaging in any way. It entertains in a more subtle way and through the writing style, it keeps the reader interested just enough for them to continue reading.
It is apparent from the start that this book in the main is a mystery, though there are also a lot of other themes which take the forecourt throughout. Death is largely explored throughout the book in many different instances, both natural and otherwise. I would not say that the themes are particularly tear-worthy, though they can bring up quite a bit of emotion if you are really drawn into the story as I was. Working alongside this is the theme of loss, though this is covered both in death and other circumstances which again, can spark some emotion especially if in your own life you have been touched by these circumstances. Identity and Reconciliation work hand in hand exploring the twins of the story and other such relationships. Saying this, you will also find a strong subject in exploring the ins and outs of twins, both in past and present tense. This is covered brilliantly and is extremely interesting to read. I am not sure I can really call it a theme, though one other aspect strikes me as very prominent in this book, and that is the constant references to Jane Eyre. This also plays part of the mystery and can be overlooked at first until you really get into the gritty parts of the story and then it all makes sense. This part, I feel, is extremely clever of the author as you will find out when you read the book.
With a lot of books, I find it takes me quite a while to attach myself to the characters, and this book is no different. Like the storyline, I did not really feel the bond between myself and any of the characters until nearly a third of the way through. This could be perhaps due to the fact that the histories and personalities of the characters seep out slowly throughout the novel, and so the further into the book I got, the more the characters became real and the more I associated with them. There are two main characters who continue through the book, though whilst delving into the past we get a strong sense of all the other characters, and each one is written perfectly.
So what makes this book any different to other books along these lines?
As mentioned above, this is not my usual genre of reading, though I have read a number of books along these lines and I have to admit that this is one of the better ones. The story is well balanced and keeps one foot firmly on the floor as the mystery unfolds, with some references to spirits and ghosts without taking it away from the 'real-life' feel. The mystery is multi-layered and has so many twists and turns throughout that the story really hits your heartstrings. In many books of this kind that I have read, the mystery is much more open and easy to unravel before its time, whereas this novel keeps everything so close and lets out only enough information at a time to keep the reader hooked.
I would not say that the base of the story is anything new, though the style and way that the author brings mystery and suspense into it really makes it something unique.
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of this book compare?
There is almost three endings to this book, each one perfectly written and placed within the pages. I do not want to give too much away so I will not go into any detail about these endings, though each one completes a part of the mystery and rounds up the story and characters perfectly. There is almost a heightened sense of emotion as the book nears its close which, again, works really well in comparison to the rest of the story, allowing the last few pages to slow down in order for the reader as well as the character to collect her thoughts.
The story was 456 pages long, which is perfect length for what this novel wanted to achieve. There were some parts in which felt very slow and useless, though in the end it was clear that every piece in the book was there for a reason.
"A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story."
'The Thirteenth Tale' feels daunting when you first open the page. The slowness of the beginning may put some people off, though once the story really begins, and the characters become rounded and full of emotion, the story really puts its hooks into you.
The story as a whole is amazing. It has its moments where you may feel as if you want to put the book down, though I would recommend pushing past these moments and you will find a wonderfully gothic read full of mystery, emotion and magic with some fantastic twists and turns that you would never have expected.
The RRP on this book is £6.99, though I was able to find it in a Charity shop for a mere 50p. It can be found on Amazon presently for only a penny plus postage and packaging. At that price, what do you have to lose?!
Summary: A great gothic read