The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
This book is for those that love books. In each carefully crafted word and sentence, you can see the author’s love of literature and words. Setterfield beautifully crafted so many passages with wonderful language and style that had me rereading just so I could feel the warmth in my soul over and over again as I read them.
“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.”
Although the language is beautiful, this book is not sweet and flowery. Both Margaret and Vida have had harsh lives and a lot of pretty creepy and horrific situations are described throughout the book. There were twists and turns and some pretty messed up things happening that you never would have guessed. It was dark, yes, but still at times read like a fairytale which are some of my favorite types of stories.
The Thirteenth Tale takes some inspiration from the classics; Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Woman in White and certainly follows these other Gothic Literature masterpieces as its own dark, haunting tale with elegant prose. Thus, it is even better for book lovers as you find subtle hints and similarities from these great works and was wonderful to be able to appreciate the foreboding houses, troubled heroines and problematic narrators all over again.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was some of the scenes focused solely on Margaret’s point of view. Her unhealthy fixation on her dead twin (whom she never knew) and some of her mannerisms were hard to swallow, so I wasn’t as interested with her storyline and found myself often wishing Vida Winter’s tale would pick up again. As several other reviews mention, it took me a little bit to get into the book’s storyline itself as the first bit is focused only on Margaret. The beautiful language and some of the best quotes of reading are in the beginning which kept me going, but I was worried for a few chapters that I’d have to listen to Margaret the entire time and dreaded it.
Synopsis: The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.