Carrie Chaney's Reviews > The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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Feb 23, 11

bookshelves: 2011-reads, favorites, fiction, to-buy
Read from February 20 to 22, 2011, read count: 1

Once upon a time, prolific fictional author Vida Winter wrote a book of thirteen tales. Curiously, only twelve made it into print. Ever since that slip, the world at large has beat upon the door to Miss Winter's seemingly non-existant past, trying to discern the meaning of the missing thirteenth tale. Over the long years, she has successfully rebuffed every attempt. However, as Miss Winter slides into old age she is aware that the truth must out. Readers are ushered through the deep mystery surrounding her life by a similary haunted writer, the biographer Margaret Lea.

Raised in a book shop, Margaret is above all a lover of stories. So when the famed Vida Winter writes her a compelling letter offering to expose her mystery-shrouded life for the first time, Margaret cannot resist the temptation. Miss Winter's craftily worded narratives pull Margaret back through the decades to the older woman's previous identity. Margaret is sucked into an investigation that will bring forth a harrowing revelation indeed. The devestating realities of the two writers demonstrates that the truth of our own lives, which we so often run away from, can be the greatest and most important story we'll ever tell.

Setterfield writes, "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," and through her own brilliant novel she proves this to be true. We are gripped from the first line and held captive until the last. Setterfield's characters are impatient guides pulling us through an intricate maze of ghost stories and misleading truths, only allowing us to gather our bearings when we have arrived at the bittersweet end of her tale. The book is magnificently penned. Phrases are so well turned and words so carefully chosen that we cannot help but take pause to admire their beauty; scenes are cut and reopened with such skill that we cannot help but rush ahead to discover the ever illusive truth. The Thirteenth Tale, pulsing with so many years of repressed pain and memory, refuses to be easily forgotten, haunting us like the many ghosts of her heroines' pasts.
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Quotes Carrie Liked

Diane Setterfield
“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

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.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“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. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“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.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“But silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grown pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen me, the people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as a compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. It feeds on the black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates,. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story, or a novel....Readers are fools. They believe all writing is autobiographical. And so it is, but not in the way they think. The writer's life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish a work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Familes are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“When you read a manuscript that has been damaged by water, fire, light or just the passing of the years, your eye needs to study not just the shape of the letters but other marks of production. The speed of the pen. The pressure of the hand on the page. Breaks and releases in the flow. You must relax. Think of nothing. Until you wake into a dream where you are at once a pen flying of vellum and the vellum itself with the touch of ink tickling your surface. Then you can read it. The intention of the writer, his thoughts, his hesitations, his longings and his meaning. You can read as clearly as if you were the very candlelight illuminating the page as the pen speeds over it.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“My genius is not so frail a thing that it cowers from the dirty fingers of newspapernen.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Diane Setterfield
“I don't pretend reality is the same for everyone.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale


Reading Progress

02/20/2011 page 25
6.0%
02/20/2011 page 25
6.0% "25 pages in I can already tell you that this will be one of my favorites. Setterfield writes beautifully. I've already marked down a handful of what might be my most loved quotes yet. Hope this keeps up!"
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