Mr. Ripley Osgood of Fields, Osgood & Co. publishing company endeavors to search for the answer to the literary mystery left hanging after CharlesMr. Ripley Osgood of Fields, Osgood & Co. publishing company endeavors to search for the answer to the literary mystery left hanging after Charles Dickens dies halfway through writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Looking for financial salvation for his publishing firm, he discovers an even greater, darker mystery might have been the basis for Dickens' last tale.
A good, fun read. I appreciated how it brought into perspective Charles Dickens' celebrity during his lifetime. (Imagine J. K. Rowling's fame, twenty years from now after she's written several more series or novels as popular or more than the Harry Potter series.) Matthew Pearl does a decent job of creating a female character, Rebecca Sands, who is feminine and beautiful and manages to credibly kick butt without being anachronistic or a caricature of a Victorian GI Jane. Osgood is a good protagonist in that he isn't Indiana Jones or a He-man; he's a quiet, friendly man with just enough charm to be well liked and is determined to save his company. I do wish that we might have known what happened to Tom Branagan at the end of the story. If anyone's character was a little inflated to the heroic, it was his, but I still enjoyed the parts in the story where he played a part. I'm wondering if maybe he might show up in other stories of Pearl's.
Dislikes, though. I still don't see the point of following Charles Dickens' son in India. Yes, opium thieves play a large part in the story, but there was absolutely no point to the Indian narratives. I feel that it added nothing to the story as a whole. I kept waiting to see how it tied in. And at the end, there was still no enlightenment. This book would have been a lot more exciting and concise without Frank or Turner and Mason's story. Because of this, it wasn't the sort of book that kept me glued to the edge of my seat, can't stop reading. I took my time reading this novel over the space of several days....more
I really enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale. It definitely doesn't fit into the categories of books I normally enjoy. Like Margaret Lea, I normally stick toI really enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale. It definitely doesn't fit into the categories of books I normally enjoy. Like Margaret Lea, I normally stick to books I know will end happily. But its magical, fairy tale, old world-quality drew me in.
Margaret Lea, a quiet, introverted lover of old books and amateur biographer, is asked to write a biography for the reclusive, internationally famous writer Vida Winter. During the course of the story, the reader follows the narrator, Margaret as she tries to write the biography of Ms. Winter and investigates the veracity of the author's story, while Margaret's own mysterious story unfolds.
Ms. Winter is an author who rewrites fairy tales and channels the mysterious, the magical, the harshness of stories written in ages past into her own, and, like her books, Ms. Setterfield's book channels this feeling as well. It is a creepy, ghostly story, both the story of Ms. Winter's life and the story of the narrator, Margaret Lea. Twins play a large part in the theme of this book, both the physical and ghostly ones, and the implied connections between people and interlayered stories. Ms. Setterfield deftly creates a fairy tale setting in a story that you know must have occurred in what we consider modern times, especially at Ms. Winter's family home, Angelfield Hall. Its air of neglect and almost decadent ruin reminded me of Ms. Hathaway in Great Expectations, especially with ancient Ms. Winter telling her story. It is this quality of magic integrated into our own world, what I suppose is considered magical realism, that kept me pondering. I repeatedly wondered how Ms. Setterfield had created that gothic, fairy tale-feel into the setting of what had to be our world. It forced an epiphany on me about the nature of fairy tales. Many people, me included, like to talk about fairy tales having a darker nature than how they're currently portrayed. But I still look at them as magical. But The Thirteenth Tale forced me to look at the 'magic' in a new light. The magical element in these old stories is based on people being a victim of circumstances and accepting it. That it's okay for children to be raised in a house of neglect with no true parents or guardians, to become these strange, disjointed figures. That's all that the magic is, the only difference between our world and theirs, truly. We romanticize this element of fate and magic. To choose an example, can you honestly say you would let a little girl live a life of slavery, and when she somehow briefly escapes and is identified, claim it's magic, rather than save any child or any person forced into that situation so they don't require the miraculous, magical escape of a person willing to let them live a normal life temporarily? Because for the story of Cinderella to exist, there has to be a situation from which people feel there is no escape except with the help of magic. You have to accept that Cinderella is stuck as a slave to a woman who hates her, her life stolen from her, in order for the magic rescue of her fairy godmother to occur. I know I wouldn't accept that.
This story was a big eye-opener for me. Maybe not the one the author intended, but one that will definitely stick with me for some time to come....more