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Beyond the Lone Islands

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I read this book in Swedish translation, which makes it hard for me to quote from, but I thought I'd write a short review anyway.

Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop. She has made a few attempts at writing short biographies but is not a well known author. However, one day she is contacted by a successful and mysterious bestselling novelist, Vida Winter. In the past, in every interview with a journalist, Vida Winter has told a different story about her past. There is also rumour of a thirteenth story that was never published. Now Vida says she wants Margaret to tell the truth.

Margaret goes to Ms Winter's house in Yorkshire, not knowing what to believe, and it does not get easier as the story is unfolded. It has been called a modern Gothic novel, and classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are often referred to within the story itself. It is a story about which not too many details should be given beforehand, or it might lose some of its power. It is the kind of story where things are revealed gradually. I was in the right mood for it when I picked it up, and it kept me under its spell from beginning to end. It is well told, and well written. If you like proper beginnings and endings to a story, you'll most likely enjoy this one.

Whether The Thirteen Tale, like the classics by the Brontë sisters, will still be read, loved and reread two hundred years from now, is probably more doubtful. Copying the classic style, the book makes highly enjoyable reading, but perhaps hardly pioneering. That, however, is for reflecting on after you've read it...

Swedish book title: Den trettonde historien.

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