Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale is a story of secrets. In it the famous writer, Vida Winter, contacts Margaret Lea, bookseller and biographer, to tell her true story. Vida had been giving out different versions of her background for years. Her current circumstances lead her to the decision to finally tell the true story of her life. This makes the plot sound simple enough, but it is anything but simple. Between the ghosts in Vida's past and Margarets own ghost there is always an unseen presence hovering just out of sight.

Part of what makes The Thirteenth Tale such an incredible book is the writing. Setterfield has a way with words that is inspirational. Several times while reading, I found myself re-reading a passage simply because the writing was that good. The plot itself is compelling which also makes this a very enjoyable book, but the writing, ahh....

"She was a do-gooder, which means that all the ill she did, she did without realizing it."

"All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. 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."

"My gripe is not with lovers of 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 lightening strikes shadows in 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."

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