Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleIt's not often that I finish a book in a day--or that after that 24 hour period I sit down to pump out a review but people can always surprise you, right?

My aunt assaulted me with this book, literally (or literarily, take your pick) pushing it into my hands, saying, "Oh Michelle, you've GOT to read this!" and with an introduction like that what else are you going to do but read it? My biggest complaint was that I was already reading The Feast of Roses (the second in that Indian princess series?) and it kind of ruined the last half of the book for me because suddenly my curiosity was so rampant that I couldn't wait to get started on the new read.

Diane Setterfield's debut novel is a modern 19th century gothic romance (and no, that's not an oxymoron) of the kind that were considered so low and vulgar to the gentry in their drawing rooms but which they devoured in private. Plot-wise it's about Margaret Lea, a ferocious reader and book seller who meets up with the biggest novelist of the day, Vida Winter, who in her last moments of life wants Margaret to record her life story.

Ms. Winter has successfully been dodging questions about her origins for her entire career and when she finally spills those beans she lets loose a ghost story of horror, abuse, tragedy, insanity, love and twins--Adeline and Emmeline--who are born into the declining Angelfield family and live as feral children on their English estate which is as delapidated and moldering as the family who inhabits it.

It's obvious that Setterfield is a fan of the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, Dickens and the rest of the 19th century Brits writing club because not only does it have the twists and turns and shocking secrets รก la Jane Eyre or The Woman in White but it also deals with the scandal in 19th-century terms which means you have to do some reading between the lines to come to your "Oh, so THAT'S what the villain did!" moments.

Setterfield has a fine hand as a writer, her prose is clean and careful and her descriptions and characterizations are lovingly thorough. As a mystery writer she does a fine job of leading you along and brings you to the end without cheating you of the satisfaction of an appropriate and entertaining ending.

What can I say? Twenty-four hours is all it took me to get through it. I suppose that's the best endorsement of all.

20 comments:

Chris said...

Oh yes, I ignored my family while reading this one. Since I'm such a Gothic literature fan, I ate it all up!

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

I really liked that one (though there were definitely some disturbing elements). My mom was a little less enthused.

Chrissy Johnson said...

I read this one in a day, too!

Jami said...

My mom gave me this book and I questioned it at first but it was a one day read for me, as well. I even reviewed it on my book blog. :) Very, very good book.

SpitFire said...

Ok I'm intrigued now! I'll have to check this book out...did it have any potentially distasteful elements? Language, raunchiness, gore?

Jami said...

SpitFire - perfectly clean. ;) (If I remember correctly... I kept it, and wouldn't if there were any "distasteful moments"...)

SpitFire said...

Jami thanks!!! I'll have to read/review for my blog now. :) My sister & Mom might love it, as my sister loves Austen type books, and my Mom loves mysteries.

imadramamama said...

Adding it to my GoodReads list right now...

Amber M. said...

I must take credit that I told my mom about this book and then bought her the copy that she thrust into your hands...:-)

SUCH a great story!!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I read this awhile ago, and I really enjoyed it as well. Thanks for the memory. :)

Here's my review, if you're interested at all:
http://jellyjules.com/?p=1082

Heart2Heart said...

Michelle,

I love books that are simply this good you literally inhale them. That to me is a classic sign of a good book.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

JanMary said...

Definitely has me intrigued.

And oh the luxury of finishing a book in 24 hours - those were the days! (I remember them fondly)

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

I read this a couple of years ago and loved it. May have to read it again sometime. :)

Flea said...

That sounds like fun! Thanks!

Jolanthe said...

oooo...that sounds good!

page2 said...

I'm happy to see that my small town library has a copy. I plan on checking it out today. The first chapter was good.

LibraryGirl62 said...

I LOVED this book! I finished it like you did-one big gulp :)

planetnomad said...

Read and LOVED that one last summer! Wasn't it fun?

Jenna Consolo said...

Oh, I love your hearty endorsement! I've had this book for over a year on the shelf and started in some months ago...just a few pages...before my school reading just took over and I got sidetracked. I must return first chance I get! Can't wait!

Lara said...

I loved this book. I started reading it on a Friday night, and I got up on Saturday and did nothing until I finished. Really great read.

I like the cover you posted much better than the one that was on the book I read.