Tuesday, February 26, 2008

10. The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This is described as a “gothic suspense novel.” I’m not into Gothic fiction like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, so I can’t really comment on that, other than the fitting moodiness of the settings and weather, but The Thirteenth Tale was suspenseful. I was surprised at the denouement; one of the main characters was not who I thought she was; two other characters had a connection I did not suspect. The ending is rather drawn out with the author tying up all the loose ends, but the “thirteenth tale” of the title is rather disappointing.

Margaret Lea is a young biographer who has been hired by the mysterious, famous, but ailing author Vida Winter to write her life story. Being a natural storyteller, Vida narrates most of her tale in her own voice. Margaret does some private investigating to verify some facts, and these parts contribute to the book, but Margaret’s own story is distracting and a bit overblown. The book is set in England, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time frame – cars and telephones exist but personal computers apparently do not; Margaret writes all her notes and correspondence by hand.

The audiobook had British actresses Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner voicing Margaret and Vida respectively, and they were excellent. In this case the British accents are appropriate due to the setting, and there were no annoying pronunciations (such as “et” for ate). This was a good book to listen to on a commute; it held my interest despite its length.

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