The Thirteenth Tale
Only 100 pages in and I cannot wait to finish!
Gothic. That's the first word that comes to mind when describing Setterfield's well-crafted novel of the deep and very dark secrets people keep to protect loved ones deserving or not. Vida Winter, reclusive but much loved author is dying. She hires young Margaret Lea, a worker in a family bookshop and sometime biographer of obscure people, to hear the truth of her life and record it for the ages. What follows is a tale that contains elements deftly borrowed from Jane Eyre, Dickens, Poe, Christie, Hitchcock and other masters of the genre. There are twin girls, left to run wild and unsocialized. There's a large, decrepit manor house staffed by the loyal retainers--a doddering housekeeper and gardener--who care for things, sort of, when other staff refuse to work there. There's a governess, of course, whose motives are murky. The present-day story, too, has its eerie elements though they are not at all designed to produce cheap thrills. Setterfield cares too much for her subject and her characters to resort to a less than literary approach. Her novel is infused with a theme that glories in the love of literature, the invaluable treasure in books for those who have suffered great loss, and the healing power of reading, writing and being able at last to tell one's story. -Madame Librarian
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My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth itself. 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 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.
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