Friday, November 10, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Whoopee! I finally finished The Thirteenth Tale! Ten guesses where I acquired the image at left? What, you got it in one? Amazing!

Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes - characters even - caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you. Well, it was like that. All day I had been prey to distractions. Thoughts, memories, feelings, irrelevant fragments of my own life, playing havoc with my concentration.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a previous book to blame for my lack of concentration; but, I did have trouble focusing on this book. Why? I've mulled that question a great deal, actually, since just about everyone with the exception of Les seems to have fallen instantly in love with The Thirteenth Tale. I think probably the most likely culprit was timing because the moody, gothic atmosphere was well described and Setterfield's writing fairly graceful, if not occasionally eloquent. There are several passages I've marked because they expressed something I have personally felt, often either uniquely or in a manner that I wish I could have come up with, myself.

I irritate myself by putting things down and forgetting where I have left them. And when I pick up my book at night, my bookmark tells me that the previous night I must have turned the pages blindly, for I have no recollection at all of the events on the page or the one before.

That sentiment was unfortunately familiar. Yes, this book was pretty much a slog, for me. But, no, I can't really blame it entirely on the book - even our fantastic weather probably had something to do with the fact that I never became thoroughly immersed in the story.

I did dislike the fact that there were so many characters who were simply born evil and stayed that way or, their opposite, passive little lambs. However, as the book progressed, characters I found likable or whom I admired for their strength, humor, or intelligence gradually appeared. And, the pace seemed to really pick up during the last 50-75 pages.

Overall, I think the book was above average - very good writing and a storyline whose strands were nicely woven together toward the end. I loved the way the author insisted on wrapping up every little thread of the story, so that no loose ends were left to dangle and torment the reader. So, in spite of taking absolutely forever to finish the book, I'm going to give it a very slightly above-average rating (which really kind of looks weird, but I don't feel right going as far as to call it an "excellent" book).



  1. Yay! So now what'll you read? You wound up giving it a bit higher rating than I did, but maybe that's the writer in you -- able to appreciate the literary efforts and skill.

  2. Bookfool ~ I'm a little over half way through and at this point have many of the same feelings as you. I like it, yet it's nothing special. I still have time for it to grab me though. I'm hoping. :)

  3. I finished this too, just haven't written it up yet. Glad you managed to enjoy it, somewhat, near the end.
    So whatcha reading now?

  4. I typed out a longish reply last night and the 'net ate it. *sigh*

    So, I'll just say, nicely written review, and I like the quotes you picked. I'm not in a huge rush to read this one, as I'm currently stuck on moody, atmospheric man-books like Cormac McCarthy's work and Paul Auster (since he's my new obsession).

  5. Hi Les!

    I'm taking a Brain Break, reading Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant. I read Angela's review (SciFi Chick), thought it sounded like loads of fun and I'm loving it.

    You're probably correct about my writerly appreciation. I'm often in awe of good writing even if a story doesn't quite fit together the way I'd like. Make sense?


    Do hang in there. I thought the ending nicely wrapped things up. TTT won't go down as a personal favorite, but in the end I didn't regret reading it and found myself reflecting on her writing style and thinking, "Yes, I'd read another by this author."


    I'll look forward to reading your review (just got home from a weekend away, so I'll go look)! I'm reading Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant - a romance with an alien (human but not from earth) who has come to warn his earth friend of an impending invasion. It's cute, silly fun. I was ready to read something very light and I'm really enjoying it. :)


    Thank you and sorry about your first post. I hate it when that happens. You type up a heartfelt note and -poof!- the internet dragon eats it. Makes a girl sigh, doesn't it?

    I think I may have been getting a little weary of "moody and atmospheric" novels - could be part of the problem I had with TTT. But, I'd read a Paul Auster any day. I'm still working on The Invention of Solitude, but didn't have a whole lot of reading time and was tired from traveling so I took a bubble bath with stuff from the salvage store in Hattiesburg and went Brain Light, last night. Yep, definitely a good decision. ;)

  6. woohoo! glad you're liking Your Planet or Mine?.. since i didn't sing praises about 13th Tale either, sounds like we do have very similar taste in books!

  7. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Bookfool, what a beautifully-written review! I may or may not read the book, but I will tell you I really enjoyed reading your review, thank you!

  8. Angela,

    I'm loving it!!! Yes, I think we do have very similar taste. It's always fun to find a "reading twin" (bad for those stacks, but fun). Your Planet or Mine? is absolutely the perfect book for me, right now. Thanks so much for your excellent review - I never would have found the book, otherwise (I do tend to veer past the romance section). :)


    Wow, thank you! I'm sort of speechless, you put that so nicely (very unusual for me, you know!). LOL

  9. Oh I also wasn't overwhelmed by The Thirteenth Tale as much as so many people seemed to be. I found the beginning of the novel was quite good but sort of fell apart for me mid-way. Enjoyed reading your review!

  10. Hi Bookgirl!

    Thanks! And, thank you for visiting my blog. :)

    It's oddly comforting to hear from people who felt the same about The Thirteenth Tale, although I don't wish a feeling of having just floated through a mediocre read on anyone, if you know what I mean.

    Do you have a blog I can visit? I don't see one on your profile page - just your name.

  11. Oops sorry, I didn't mean to be so anonymous :)

    I'm Iliana from over at Bookgirl's Nightstand ( I've been enjoying your blog tons!

  12. Hi Iliana!

    Nice to meet you! I'll go check out your blog, thanks. I'm so glad you're enjoying my blog and thanks for saying so!! :)


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