09 June 2016

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Title: The Thirteenth Tale

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0068PHS5Q/

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Pages: 418     

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly recommended


This is a book that deserves attention if you want to enrich your language. As a textbook it’s one of the best. The language is rich, descriptive, vivid. As a fiction it was boring and too long.

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, brutal, dangerous Charlie, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House hides a chilling secret which strikes at the very heart of each of them, tearing their lives apart...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic writer Vida Winter? And what is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret's own, troubled life?

As Margaret digs deeper, two parallel stories unfold, and the tale she uncovers sheds a disturbing light on her own life...

My problems with the book started early on. The story is told from Margaret Lea’s point of view. I was just getting to know her when she receives a letter from England’s most famous writer, Vida Winter, who offers Margaret to become her first and only biography. The whole book is Vida Winter’s life, which she start telling before I managed to become interested in her. Thus, I had to read a very long life story of a character I didn’t care about. And it was long. Really long. With so many details that sometimes I was suffocating. As I said already, the prose was a gift for someone who’s learning English. It was outstanding, a real treasure for any awisl. Without using the same word twice, Miss Setterfield managed to write a 418-paged mystery. I swear she has used every single word in English language! There were no more synonyms and antonyms left in the Oxford Dictionary. She has used every known technique, every sentence structure, broken every rule. She has done a great job. I have never read a book wordier than “The Thirteenth Tale.”

But the plot… I never got into it. There was a mystery, and an interesting twist in the end, but because I never got a chance to care for Vida Winter, I also didn’t care for her family story. It seemed to have a bit of everything: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Bleak House. It seemed to me sometimes that Miss Setterfield had been trying to create something greater than what she ended up with in the end. Because despite the length of the book, the prose, the Gothic atmosphere, it lacks something to become a classic. The story was moving so slowly that the book seemed to be longer than any Dickens novel (which it was not). There were just a few characters, and I had to spend too much time with them while they went on with their chores, ate, drank, talked, engaged in incestuous relationships, slept, then woke up and repeated their daily routine over and over again, while somewhere in the background a little bit of mystery was going on. I will not spoil the book, but the main twist was so undramatic I couldn’t believe that was all.

There is a movie based on the book. I haven’t watched it yet, but I am planning to, just because I like to watch movie adaptations of the books I read. It’s always interesting to see how the director will present this or that scene, and how they will try to conceal the twist till the end. Some do it well, others not so much. If the movie is good, I will write a blog post about it. As for now, buy “The Thirteenth Tale” and read it slowly and with a pen and a notepad. I promise you will take a lot of notes.

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield, gothic, mystery