30 June 2012

The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale-- 5 Stars

How could this book have been sitting, languishing on my shelves for so many years? How had I managed to deprive myself of such a story for so long? Its inexcusable, simple as that.

Upon suggestion from a fellow book-aholic on GoodReads, I picked up The Thirteenth Tale. I was not disappointed. We follow a young woman by the name of Margaret Lea, who is contacted by the author Vida Winter to write her biography. Margaret doesn't read books written by authors still among the living when there are so many others to read by authors who will never write again. However, she is intrigued by Ms. Winter and accepts the commission to "tell the truth".

The story unfolds of strange relationships, feral twins, a governess, a ghost, a garden and fire that destroyed it all. All too often, I found myself, or rather lost myself, in this telling of gothic strangeness and I loved it. I would come up from this story only to eat or drink and that begrudgingly. I stayed up late last night reading, it was well after two in the morning before I turned the last page and shut out the light. I've not done that in some time and it was a joy. Our protagonist, Margaret, left no stone unturned and even told us what happened to all the side characters in this tale, something that most authors don't bother to do. I had to find out what happened to everyone.

The Thirteenth Tale pulls you with a strange magnetic force into the pages of the story and doesn't let you go. You find yourself thinking about the characters long after you've had to set the book down and go back to work. You find yourself wondering what is going to happen next. Will Margaret finish the commission before time runs out? Will we ever know what really happened in that house so long ago? Will Margaret find the peace she is looking for? Questions such as these haunt you until you reach the last page and smile at the complete story, happy that everything worked out in the end even if it wasn't how you thought. In a rare fashion, I actually cried when this novel reached its conclusion. I was sad that the story was over.

There are books that we find a few times in our lives, if we are very fortunate, that have a power over us, that mystical power of a story. It fills us, guides us down it's own path and when we reach the end of that journey, we are left feeling a sense of both joy at completion and sadness that these characters we have met will go on without us. You see, their story is over for now and ours must continue. We have to say good-bye and good-byes are rarely kind and happy affairs in their entirety, but a cloud of sadness always lingers. Always, and I wouldn't change it for anything.
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