Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

     Margaret Lea is an aspiring writer and a voracious reader who has worked in her father's bookshop her entire life.  One evening,  Margaret receives a surprising and confusing letter from one of England's most famous novelists, Vida Winter.  Ms. Winter has always been known as a reclusive and mysterious woman, yet she is writing to Margaret to hire her as a biographer.  No one knows anything about Vida Winter's past - she has never been forthcoming about her upbringing and family history, so this is an unbelievable opportunity for Margaret.

     As Margaret is slowly introduced to the details of Ms. Winter's past, she realizes that they have a great deal in common.  Both women have been keeping a terrible, heavy secret their entire lives and are desperate for redemption and peace.  As Margaret learns the shocking truth of Vida's past involving sinister and harrowing family secrets, she must come to terms with her own past. Through the catharsis of Ms. Winter's storytelling, Margaret must relive her own tragedy and painfully acknowledge a great loss from which she has never recovered.

     The Thirteenth Tale is not just a gothic tale about family mysteries and revelations - it's a book about the powerful healing effects of storytelling.  Both Vida and Margaret are emotionally tormented by a lifetime of secrets, but as bits and pieces of their stories are revealed, the process of healing, forgiveness, and redemption begins to take place.  The Thirteenth Tale deals with identity, loss, grief, abuse, and relationships.  It is a lot to weave into one story, but, like Vida Winter, Diane Setterfield is a master storyteller.  This book has a pulse and is nearly impossible to put down.  Lovers of language and literature will appreciate the artistic organization of the novel, and the plot is equally engaging.  A big thanks to my good friend, Mary, who encouraged me to move this book to the top of my reading list!  I'm so glad I followed your advice!

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