Secrets, Lies, and (Almost) Thirteen Tales
April 03, 2012
At last night’s book club meeting, we discussed a fantastic book: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This is Setterfield’s only novel, and it’s a doozy! It's a full-blown gothic mystery, complete with a ramshackle house, disturbed twins, an insanity-plagued family, secrets, lies, and the hint of a ghost or two. The book club gave it a unanimous rave review, and several of us said that we were tempted to start re-reading right away!
The story is simple but effective. Vida Winter is the world’s most famous living author, but her past is a web of fanciful concoctions and bald-faced lies. As she approaches her deathbed, Vida decides she wants at least one person to know the truth of her tumultuous history, and she selects Margaret Lea—introverted bookworm and part-time biographer—to receive her story. The novel shifts back and forth between Vida’s life story and Margaret’s own troubled past, and the two women find connections that verge on the otherworldly. Ultimately, this is a story of life, death, rebirth, and the lifesaving qualities of literature.
If you’ve already experienced The Thirteenth Tale and want to read something similar, allow me to suggest a few. First of all, try Atonement by Ian McEwan, which is also set in a rambling manor house and features a troubled young girl who turns to fiction to fix her past mistakes. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley is the story of a schoolboy caught in the middle of a love affair between an aristocratic woman and the poor farmer next door. Like The Thirteenth Tale, it is a story about knowing which secrets to keep and which secrets to spill. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a gothic thriller about a young woman who doesn’t know what she’s getting into when she marries an eccentric playboy. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is another tale of wicked designs, cruel abuse, and redeeming love, all colored with a twinge of the supernatural. And finally, the ultimate is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, in which an enterprising governess sheds light on long-held secrets in a dark old manor.
But even if none of these books interest you, join us next month as we discuss The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. The book club meets on the first Monday of every month at 7:00 p.m., right here at the Buckner Branch. Our next meeting is May 7, and we’ll save a chair for you!