Jamie's Reviews > The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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Mar 19, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Jamie by: good reads, I think
Recommended for: so many people
Read in March, 2008

Oh to be lost in a book. That's really the reason I read, the reason I read more often than I write and so on. I have a favorite memory: it is me, at thirteen or fourteen, lying on a bedsheet I carried from the laundry room and spread out in the field across the street from my childhood home. It was spring, nearly too cool to be comfortable, but the grass was dry and very green and filled with tiny little pastel flowers, which are decidedly not "real" snow drops, but that's what I'd called them since I was a child.
I'd had Daphne DuMauier's Rebecca on my shelves for about a year. I'd borrowed it from some Language Arts teacher who was critical of my typical reading choices, however furvent, and suggested I up the reading level a bit. The paper back was spider-webbed with age and the pages brown and flaking, but I did like the very narrow picture: lovely dark eyes framed by red hair: Rebecca. And so, at last, the book had ripened and I read it in the field until it grew too dark to see and I moved inside. I can still feel the flowers touch my arms as I turned the pages, feel the "crush" of my stomach as I decided I loved Mr. De Winter I though I could only get from easy visuals like movies. And so began my love affair with the Gothic novel.
Others would follow: Jane Eyre, re-read in an apartment in Paris during the great, dreary rains of late winter, wrapped in a quilt, drinking black tea, and, of course, as of late, The 13th Tale. Where to begin--I loved Margaret Lea, the timid, Jane Eyre-ish narrartor who leads a very exact little life above her bookshop: dinner and in bed to read by eight with cocoa and hot water bottle, her old gothic novels with their nicely wrapped up endings, and I loved the eccentric Miss Winter, in her Mistlewaith Mannor of a house on the moores with topiary gardens, cats and tapistries. The food listed in these novels, the soup and sandwiches denoting lunch as apposed to the steak and kidney pie for dinner, it all sounds better with served at a small table in a dark, cozy room in a mannor house with a high antique bed overstuffed with linens.
Granted, this was a gothic novel with a bit of an edge: like Rebecca's maybe/maybe not lesbian connotation, the Angelfield's have a knack for not only mental illness and general instability as well as seemingly profound agoraphobia, but they also like to "hurt" themselves and each other: physically. There was absolutely a plethora of rusty wires, kept needles removed from sewing kits, revolvers, pires and cans of petrol.
But, like Jane Erye, there were also ghosts to go with the madness and other lovely things, as well as asylums, (twins!), trains, hats, gloves and libraries. It's no wonder Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney cartoon...it too, fits this bill.
The book wasn't perfect, but how can anything be? I wasn't ready for it to be over, exactly, but begining to understand on my own, which is the sign of a worthwhile mystery. No mystery should be impossible to unravel--it's all about the story, the trail of the ribbon, as apposed to simply the unvailing. I loathe totally impractical silliness in mysteries. I much prefer a long lineage of a well oiled, detailed distraction. Very good book.
PS: there was a stone cottage, too. I do love that, too.
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Reading Progress

02/07 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Miina You and I read a lot of the same books when we were kids.

I like how your review of this book was more of an overview of past gothic book love affairs. Even though you didn't talk about "The Thirteenth Tale" you still offered up a convincing review.


message 2: by Mary (new)

Mary Crabtree Jamie.....you're a good writer.. I always like seeing your reviews. You remember the reader when you write.





message 3: by Lindsi (new) - added it

Lindsi what a lovely writer you are. I almost would rather read your comments than an actual book! I seemed to lose myself in the neatly drawn picture you created in my mind of this book. Thank you for this review.


message 4: by Marianne (new) - added it

Marianne Even though I've never heard of the book before, your review makes me want to go get it and start reading right NOW! Your review was a joy to read!


message 5: by Sondra (new)

Sondra You are a stellar writer. My thanks for your review!


message 6: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Slavin Hey Sondra - I read this review, I like your take on reviewing! I also read this book a long time ago, because it was listed "a quiet novel" like mine and I wanted to compare. I liked it, too.


message 7: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Slavin Jamie - I like your take on reviewing a book. I read this book some time ago, as it was also called "a quiet novel" like my novel. I liked the gothic referecnces and, of course, anything Jane Eyre....


message 8: by Lauren (new) - added it

Lauren Based on your review, I am going to give this book another go. Started it when it came out and never got far. I guess I didn't give it enough of a go. Thanks, Jamie for a great, well written review!


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