The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes — characters even — caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.

I do not believe I have ever been sucked into a books so completely by the words alone. It was love before the first chapter was complete.

For a card-carrying bibliophile, I will admit that the longer I read the harder and harder it is for me to be taken in. For me to be surprised. But this is certainly a story for those of us who love the written word. Vivid from the first page to the last, the prose alone completely seduced me into the wee hours of the morning. Add the stunning language to the dynamic characters and complex mystery this book easily made the “book crack” shelf.

I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child.

This book’s prose made me fall in love with reading all over again.

This is a story about Margaret Lea, an assistant in her father’s book store and amateur biographer who gets a letter from Vida Winters-a critically acclaimed novelist for over fifty years-ordering Margaret to come to Yorkshire and write Vida’s biography.

Vida Winters is not only acclaimed for her novels, but also has become notorious in her refusal to divulge a straight truth about her past.

My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.

Before accepting this vast undertaking wholly outside of Margaret’s experience, Margaret insists on three absolute truths that can be easily verified. What Margaret doesn’t know is how close those truths will bring her to her own past; and the mysterious thirteenth tale from Vida’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a book that only contains twelve stories.

“Silence is not a natural environment for stories,” Miss Winter told me once. “They need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you.”

As the two women look deeper into their own pasts, they are forced to confront harsh realities. But with death looming ever nearer time to make peace with the ghosts of the past is running out.

A masterpiece of words, this book will make you fall in love magic in stories all over again.

The other rooms were thick with the corpses of suffocated words; here in the library you could breathe.

Advertisements