Monday, April 1, 2013

The Thirteenth Tale

Another book that I have had sitting on my shelf for what seemed to be an eternity, The Thirteenth Tale, if I remember correctly, was purchased during an after-work shopping spree when I was a book seller. I don't quite remember what attracted me to the book. Was it the premises? Was it the book cover that was colorful with detailed artwork of bound books? I'm not sure but it traveled with me as I moved south and it took its place on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, until I picked it up at the beginning of February.

It was a quick decision, I had finished a book just before bed and I needed something to take with me to work. A hasty decision, fingers touching the corner of the first book my eyes set on, and off it went into my purse for the day's commute.

It was the perfect book to choose and I flew through its pages. I think, if I were to say just one thing about this book, it would be that it is a book for book lovers. For people who are taken away by the story and have a distinct relationship with books, the objects and the stories, that non-readers do not understand. I loved that aspect of the book, I adored that someone just got it.

A lot of people are claiming this is Gothic literature and that I am unsure. It has its dark and spooky elements but I don't know if I would pair it with the well known pieces of Gothic literature that are already out there. But this is entirely personal opinion. I'm sure, in some ways, it is Gothic literature but I just don't see it. The book is quirky and weird in a way that I feel it is meant to be quirky and weird. It has its dark moments, many, in fact, but by the end you are left with a sense of warmth and maybe a shiver of a fleeing ghost.

Margaret is, for the main part, our narrator. She's a biographer who has a less than conventional life and is offered the opportunity to write the biography of a very popular author. Vida Winter is a recluse of sorts but has a great fan base as her books have been sold all over the world and devoured quickly by greedy book loving people. Margaret travels to Ms. Winter's home and settles in to hear the account of the woman's life.

Sick and dying, this is Winter's final chance to tell the truth. She has been known to give varying accounts of her life story and at first Margaret is understandably unsure about the woman. Is she wasting her time? But quickly Margaret is brought into Winter's world and she simply  has to know what comes next.

What comes next isn't easily achieved when story and real life come together. Secrets are kept almost to the very last pages of this book and Winter's tale. You're led through the twists and turns of the haunted house and confusing garden on the property grounds and when you are brought to the end I felt I wasn't quite sure how I got there.

I was fascinated by the relationship the twins have in this story. Twins and their connection to one another has always been an interest of mine. I haven't any siblings at all and have always found myself yearning to know what it's like to have such a close bond and, in my mind, twins are equivalent to the "ultimate" bond one could have with a sibling. When the book was over, I felt somewhat lost. It ended rather abruptly, but understandably, and the loose ends that are tied up during the final pages seemed forced and not very enjoyable to read. I felt that there should have been more substance to those final pages and rather as if the author was tired, as was the reader, and was left to tie it up neatly.

This author does have a gift and I would be interested in trying out more of her books. The book itself, I feel, is entirely a book lovers read. Long after I had finished reading this book many of the quotes and descriptions of how books can make one feel still flitted through my head. If you enjoy books, pick this up, read it, highlight the quotes, and enjoy what it means to be a book lover.

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