Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

After this novel came out last September, it seemed like everybody was blogging about it. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, we could make it to Christmas without Papa Rooster hearing of it and purchasing it for himself!

Happily for me, it was a new title to him when he unwrapped it on Christmas morning--and he devoured it shortly after. As he handed it off to me, he asked, "Did you ever wonder where a story takes hold in your brain? I think maybe it's [indicating an area at the top of his head] right up in here..."

The Thirteenth Tale
spins a mesmerizing web about the reader, introducing the tangled threads of a dark tale that can only sorted out as the story is told, bit by bit. But will there be time for its ending before the terminally ill narrator dies? Will her young biographer be able to search out the truth from the fragments of secrets half-told? What of the lives that remain? And the biographer's own story?

You can read more detailed reviews at Amazon, but they include a few hints of plot spoilers--and this is a story best unfolded at the author's pace. You might just like to know that everyone is comparing this debut novel to the works of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens--for its characters, sweeping story, and Gothic romanticism, complete with carefully-guarded family secrets, ghosts, governesses, and old mansions gone to ruin. It is no copycat novel, though; the characters are real and original, and the author's rich, evocative use of language is in a more contemporary voice than the old classics. A broader audience will be able to enjoy this tale.

Besides the obvious comparisons to Jane Eyre (made by The Thirteenth Tale itself), this book reminded me of Daphe du Maurier's Rebecca, which I read in high school. They both have the same ghosts-in-the-mist aura of suspense, with a chilling plot twist at the end. If you enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale and are looking for another good read in a similar vein--do hunt up Rebecca, if you haven't read it before.

And if you haven't read The Thirteenth Tale....you have a gem of a story awaiting you! I'm eager to see what this author writes next.

14 comments:

Jennifer said...

Thanks Hen for the recommend,
(rhyme was not on purpose!!)

sounds really good, I am going to go get a copy. I haven't read Rebecca, but I did see the old black and white movie, which was really good. I might have to go get that book too.

thanks for sharing,
Jenny in Ca

Pierre Lourens said...

So far, I am about 300 pages in. It's absolutely fascinating, the way she tells the story. I can't wait to finish it, and it definitely deserves an awesome review.

Randi said...

That one is on my list but I have a couple to read before I can get to it. The book sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

So did you read this book before, or after, you gave it to Papa R. for Christmas? Sounds like one I'd enjoy (hint, birthday!) If anyone is interested in early American frontier historical novels, I'd recommend "Northwest Passage", by Kenneth Roberts, an old one, which I just finished. So fascinatingly told I couldn't lay it down! Love, Pianomum

Krakovianka said...

Oooh, this one is on its way to me right now. It won't get here for a few months, I'll bet, but maybe I'll have it in time for summer reading, which sounds wonderful!

Carrie said...

(Found you via Semicolon)

I just finished reading this book a few weeks back. (http://bookfest2006.blogspot.com/2007/01/thirteenth-tale-by-diane-setterfield.html)

I found it absolutely haunting. It lingers with you for awhile, that's for sure. It's dark in nature, and I tend to not like that, but Setterfield, I thought, was very tasteful in her portrayal of her character's failings (of which there were many). All in all, I'd definitely recommend it! It was amazing.

Literary Feline said...

I was memorized by the story as well when I read the book just after Christmas. Great review!

Jennifer said...

I can't wait to read this one. Well, I will be waiting, but I know I'll get to it soon.

blest said...

What is so fascinating to me is how subject matter which would normally be so revolting as to completely turn me off and drive me away is cloaked in such beautiful writing that I read nonstop to the end...and then went "Hey wait a minute! That was kinda sick!" Still - great book.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Blest--

You bring up a good point. I'm wondering if I should have put in a cautionary word...but I think that one has to take this tale for what it is--essentially a genteel horror story! Dark, unspeakable secrets are typical of the genre. Fortunately they are not central to the plot, but they are there to give you the shivers of revulsion and contribute to the overall "dark and stormy night" feeling of apprehension around every turn. Basically, like a good ghost story!

Islandsparrow said...

I'm #3 of 4 on the waiting list at our local library. I can't wait.

Kelly said...

I listened to this one. And, hated the first hour. The narrator bugged me with her endless book fetishizing. But...60 minutes in, once Miss Winter began her story, and I was hooked. An excellent yarn.

Oh, and the narrator I hated to much at the beginning? I loved how she changed, ever so slightly, over the course of the book into a social, personable human being.

Shauna said...

Given how many rave reviews on Christian web sites I saw about this book without even so much as a hint about the content, I was surprised by how sordid some of the backstory was, although thankfully it was not graphic. I still really enjoyed the book and was so impressed with the writing.

Brea said...

We read this for my book club a few months ago, and I had never even heard of it before I bought it on Amazon. Oh my, I couldn't put the thing down!! And I love how you compared Tale to Rebecca, because I thought the same thing, too. I loved both books.