Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Review -- The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield


My rating: 3 of 5 stars










The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, was the perfect choice for our October/Halloween book group: a story filled with ghost tales, crumbling estates, mysterious accidents and madness.

Margaret Lea has been asked by prolific but reclusive writer, Vita Winter, to act as scribe and storyteller for her biography. Margaret must spend the next few months living and learning of the horrors of Miss Winter’s life, while coming to terms with her own demons.

Miss Winter has some serious familial issues: an ancestry overflowing with incestuous relationships, mental illness, abuse and neglect. Much like Brontë – she has a “crazy Uncle in the nursery” instead of the “crazy wife in the attic.” She has been raised by the estate's caretakers and has a dysfunctional relationship with her twin sister. Life was not good at her family’s estate, Angelfield, and Miss Lea is left to put the pieces together.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I thought Ms. Satterfield’s prose was glorious. Her descriptions of Angelfield and the moors were exact. I often caught myself looking out the window to see if the fog was rolling in. And when you get to the scene in the nursery – seriously – you will be cleaning your house for weeks! It was perfectly spooky and creepy. However, as Miss Lea solves the mystery around Miss Winter’s life, I wanted to stop and say, “Huh? Really?” I just didn’t get it. And the ending, was too perfectly tied up with a bow for my taste.

This novel is Ms. Setterfield’s homage to all things gothic, DuMaurier and Brontë.

But DuMaurier and Brontë would have done it better.

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