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Book DetailsISBN: 9780752875736
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Book Review: Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - Reviewed by TeresaS (13 Feb 2010)
Margaret Lea lives for books. When she is offered the challenge of writing the biography of the most famous writer in England, she finds uncanny parallels with her own life.
The Thirteenth Tale is a book for greedy bibliophiles. It’s a book for all those of us who know books as places to loose oneself, books as vehicles for travel in time and space, who feel sentimental about books as objects. Albeit if that sentimentality sometimes tips over into indulgent soppiness. Who cares? This is a sometimes silly, entertaining, enchanting and engrossing story, with all the ingredients of a gothic novel. Set on the Yorkshire Moors, with massive old houses falling into decay, abandoned babies, topiary gardens, and undiscovered ancestry, it lays out a mystery which twists and turns through ghostly imaginings and haunted characters.
The thrill of this book is its challenge to the site of truth. What tells us more about the past, subjective unreliable narrative or factual evidence?
This is Dianne Setterfield’s first novel, though she is very well versed in 19th and 20th century French literature. All the way through this book, you get the feeling that she is having a great deal of fun playing with genre and image and language to produce a lovely bibliomystery.
The Thirteenth tale could be criticised for its shameless evocation of the Brontes and Dickens, but that would be churlish. It’s not highbrow. It has a certain whiff of upstairs-downstairs. But as a whole, it’s a book to read in one gulp, curled up in an armchair, beside a pile of unread tomes!
Diane Setterfield is in her early forties. Having spent time in France, she now lives in Harrogate. Her background is an academic one. Her previous publications have been in the field of 19th and 20th century French literature, especially the works of Andre Gide.
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