Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Published: Orion, 2006
Blurb: Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates…
Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past — and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret’s own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield’s spell?
What I thought: Firstly, I’d like to (rather lazily) direct you to Katie’s review of this book. Katie has a real gift for recreating a novel’s atmosphere, and it was this review which inspired me to get a copy in the first place. Katie’s blog is professional and reader-centred, while I use mine more for keeping track of my own reading. When I was at secondary school, we had to keep a ‘reading log’, an exercise which I thoroughly enjoyed, and this is now the online equivalent. In short, if you’re here (and I somehow doubt anyone is), I rejoice at it and you’re most welcome, but you might be happier there.
Back to the book. Everything Katie said, but I’d like to add…. Firstly, I loved this book! It was so indulgent. I particularly enjoyed tracing the influence of novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The Heights-like, many-voiced, many-layered narrative structure was done particularly well. The only real niggle for me was the post-scriptum: I had thought that one of the novel’s achievements so far was its ability to be outrageous and to flirt with the supernatural whilst remaining believable. The post-scriptum broke that spell and suddenly I was irritated rather than enchanted. The whole point of the supernatural is that it’s just around the corner. It’s not in your face and it can’t be confirmed. The minute a ghost turns up with his head under his arm and says ‘Oooh,’ he ceases to be frightening or interesting and he becomes a figure of fun. Not quite as bad as Philippa’s Melusina, but it’s the same thing. I love the gothic genre and I love the supernatural in fiction, but for goodness’ sakes, keep it unknowable and keep in ambiguous, or just wave goodbye to reality completely and call the ghost Casper.
Rant over. Snip off the post-scriptum and this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
How I’m doing: 45 to go.