Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

Amateur biographer Margaret Lea loves books. She works in her father's antiquarian bookshop, and she devours novels, particularly those that are not contemporary.

Enter Vida Winter, bestselling author and noted liar. She is an accomplished and prolific writer of novels. And she is now asking Margaret to listen to her story.

Margaret agrees to travel and meet Winter. The big old house is, of course, creepy. The hired help is guarded. And so begins the tacky, overwrought attempt at a gothic novel. . .

I'm not going to give anything away. Margaret listens to a rich and complex tale of twin girls, Adeline and Emmeline March, and their dysfunctional family situation. A mysterious governess and a kindly gardener are also featured in the story. Is the story true? Can Margaret trust Vida? And what lurks in Margaret's own family history? All will be revealed.

Initially, I could not stand this book. The description was so over the top, so clearly trying to be gothic and failing. But I got sucked into the story. And then I got tired of the story. Then Setterfield threw in the most ridiculous, frustrating plot twist EVER.

This is not a novel in the gothic tradition. Do not get suckered into reading this.


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