“It gave me a queer feeling. Yesterday or the day before, while I had been going about my business, quietly and in private, some unknown person — some stranger — had gone to the trouble of marking my name onto this envelope. Who was it who had had his mind’s eye on me while I hadn’t suspected a thing?”
I’m a reader. I’ve been reading for as long as I could remember. I’m the kid who used to hide behind furniture so that I could ignore the calls of my mother or my siblings and focus on my books. I love the magic of reading. I love getting to know new people and visiting new places. I love stories.
When you read a lot, you are always on the look out for the “it” book. For a book which grabs you around the heart and won’t let go. One of the gripping thing about a book is the style in which it is written. The wordsmithing if you please, even though spell check hates that word. How did the author go about the work of picking their words, heating them, melting them down and remolding them in a way that is fresh and captures my attention. Some writers have very soft voices, while others burn bright and fade quickly. Some books start out strong, beautiful, inviting you as a reader to pull back the curtain and view a new world for a few hundred pages but can’t carry that voice throughout the whole story. They begin to lose their voice as they go along.
The Thirteenth Tale is not a book with laryngitis. It called to me from the shelf! It’s voice does not turn into a gravely whisper as it gets further into its tale. No. It blares its beautiful words at the top of its lungs taking the reader on a visceral journey of descriptions both horrendous and brilliant. I have read few authors with such a grip on adjective and adverb.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a book for readers. It is about readers. It is about lovers of stories and lovers of books. It is also a gothic story. Not gothic as in vampires and what not, but gothic as in Jane Eyre. In fact, Jane Eyre is mentioned so lovingly so often in this novel, I might just have to read it again soon.
This story is about a twins, a dying story-teller, ghosts, lost children, insanity and lots of other wonderful gothic themes.
I think one of the interesting parts about the book is the timeframe. You’re everyday brain spends a large part of the book trying to decide what year it is, or at least what decade or century. The story is multi-layered and so parts of it take place back when people still drove coaches and wagons. But the rest of the story is modern, just how modern one never really figures out. This never distracts from the story, only tantalizes your brain when you are away from the book.
I hesitated to recommend this book until I finished it to see if it could pull off the end as well as the beginning. It did. It is beautiful through and through. I will put it on my book shelf next to a few other books I think are excellent not only in their story telling, but in the beauty of the wordsmithing: Lord of the Rings, The English Patient, Shutter Island and the Time Traveler’s Wife.
If you enjoy a gothic story, a beautiful story, a gripping story, read The Thirteenth Tale.