Jesse's Reviews > The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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Feb 06, 08

Recommended for: Fans of Bronte and Austen
Read in January, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I know a lot of people who have read this book and raved about it. I'm not one of them.

Don't get me wrong, its an interesting book. It plays on a love of books in its reader, as well as a love of classic British countryside dramas (Bronte, Austen,...etc). It goes for an authentic feel with its tackling of this sub-genre's topics, but being a tad more graphic and sensational. The best description of it I could come up with is a cross between Austen, Bronte, and V.C. Andrews. Murder, twins, incest, physical and psychological abuse, adultery, even madness all abound in this story. Its melodramatic to a fault. That being said I still enjoyed the book, I just didn't find its narrative structure, plot devices, or twists wholely original. Now for one bit of technical nitpickery.

I read this book, and couldn't guess what decade it took place in until the very end. There was little to no use of telephones until the later quarter of the book, most communication seems to be done in person or via post. There are cars, but they aren't described very well. There are trains, but again they are left rather vague. I got the feel from the people and the culture you encountered that it wasn't pre-WWII England, but I couldn't quite place that either. Its not until the end of the book when a child is heard to want to play "rockets" that I could even hazard a guess at around the 1950's or 1960's. All of this added up to a kind of timeless feel, but in an annoying way. I like to know when a story is set, particularly when the atmosphere is nearly as important as characters (as it is in this sorty of British melodrama). This factor lead me to believe that either the authoress didn't feel that period was an important piece to her novels immersion level for the reader, or that she simply couldn't be bothered to do adequate research into areas she didn't know enough about. Either way it lead to the book being less enthralling than it could have been. Still, all in all its much more interesting that the usual Bestseller type of book.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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'stina Interesting. The timelessness of the novel was one the things that made me love it.


Kate Thank you Jesse I have been struggling how to describe why I didn't love this book. There was lots to like, I enjoyed the language and plot but was irritated I couldn't fix exactly what the time lines were. I couldn't clearly imagine details such as clothes furnishings etc due to not being entirely sure which decade we were in. I assumed it was late 50's early 60's becuase of Margarets love for pencils, Aurelius's recipe book and the pre-ambulator being old fashioned. Hadn't picked up on the rockets though well done.

Thanks for a great review. Kate


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy I assumed at first it took place in modern times... It perplexed me why Margaret seemed to have no research skills. Even if it was 60s, why were the old papers in boxes and not microfilm? I found the lack of an anchor in time incredibly annoying!!


Georgia This book was given to me because my friend just loved it. I did not.


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