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The Thirteenth Tale (thoughts)

January 9, 2007

I started The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield on Sunday, and I finished it last night. This is actually my biggest disappointment with the book!

In general, I really like this ‘genre’: lots of book-loving characters, quite a bit of weird mystery, spooky, almost-gothic settings. So I was really, really looking forward to reading the book. And at this level, it certainly did not disappoint. The atmosphere, the sketchy characters, the bibliophile narrator…all was satisfying. I didn’t even guess the twist, which is unusual for me! The book was well written; Sutterfield used her device (story-within-a-story) to build suspence, but didn’t leave the reader dangling too much. Furthermore, you could tell that each sentence had been truly thought about, so that the style of writing helped create the story as much as the characters and plot. The characters were alive: I could see them, imagine running into them one day. Well, if I ever found myself wandering the moors. There was also a bit of humor at one point (poking fun at gothic novels), which I found rather refreshing.

That being said, I feel that Setterfield didn’t go as far as she could have. It’s a very short book. Ok, now that I’ve looked it’s actually 406 pages. But still, it *feels* like a very short book: I wish that Setterfield had fleshed everyone out even more. I fell in love with most of the characters, and the settings, and I really want a sequel with the same narrator.

So, I would definitely recommend this book, but prepare for a somewhat abrupt ending. The book has a pretty neat site where you can read an interview with the author and get a little more information on aspects of the book:

Favorite Passages:

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the wamrth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They make you happy. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. …It is a kind of magic. (17)Every pore in her plain little face was illuiminated. Something shone in her clothes and in her hair. Something radiated from her luggage. Something cast a glow around her person, like a lightbulb. Something made her exotic.We had no idea what it was. We’d never imagined the like of it before.

We found out later, though.

Hester was clean. Scrubbed and soaped and rinsed and buffed and polished all over. (150)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. annie permalink
    January 16, 2007 2:57 am

    I agree–it was over much too soon!

    Great blog–have added you to my blogroll. Looking forward to discussing books with you–

  2. February 22, 2009 10:45 am

    I just found this, thanks to your Sunday Salon. I’ll be linking to this on my own post.


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