Monday, June 05, 2006

In which I briefly report on The Thirteenth Tale

I'm happy to report back on Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, which I spent Friday night and most of Saturday reading. After which I got something to eat (because I delayed lunch to finish it), sat down, and read most of it again - prompting an odd look and some questions from my husband ("Didn't you already finish that?"). I rarely read books twice, but in this case, there's a good reason for it. Ah, more vague, enigmatic comments about the novel, my apologies ...

I'll be including a summary and review in my quarterly "What We're Reading" column for NoveList (a public library database), which will be published in August. Because my editor's going on vacation, I had to list my 5 picks for the column ahead of time, and because I told her Thirteenth Tale was going to be one of the books I covered, it locked me into reading it sooner rather than later. I'm glad I did.

The book's website gives a better plot description than you'll find on the back of the ARC, and because I'll be talking about it in detail elsewhere, I'll say no more, other than that for me, the hype was warranted. On that £800,000 deal, though - I've read other great novels that weren't valued nearly so highly by publishers, but I do hope The Thirteenth Tale does well. It's a wonderful story. As for whether it's historical or not, my original question: no, not really. A fair amount of the plot takes place 60 years in the past, but you won't find any real historical detail in those scenes, just a gothic strangeness that suits the novel perfectly. In short, it works.


  1. Anonymous9:46 AM

    Just recently discovered your blog--I know I'm slow about some things--anyway have enjoyed your write ups about BEA, etc.
    Do you read much nonfiction history/bios? You mentioned Anne Boleyn in one of your postings and I read the Irene Goodman article (very interesting)--have you read the new Anne Boleyn bio yet by Joanna Denny(she descended from Sir Anthony Denny, one of H8's attendants). She makes some interesting claims, particularly about some of the portraits of Anne & Katharine of Aragon, among other things. And I thought David Starkey's SIX WIVES was rather radical.
    Also just finished up the new Dolley Madison bio by Catherine Allgor--what a fascinating woman all round. The quintessential Washington hostess/power broker.
    The THIRTEENTH TALE does sound intriguing--perhaps a good discussion book. Oops didn't take the time to sign up! Sorry! --Mike

  2. Hi Mike - thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. I read some nonfiction history, but haven't read the Denny yet. Your comments on the portraits have me curious, so I'll check it out. I think it came out in the UK much earlier than here - anyone else read it?

    I don't participate in many book discussions but imagine that Thirteenth Tale would be a good book for it. Especially if people discussed the book as they were reading, rather than waiting until the end.

  3. I loved the Thirteenth Tale, however, somewhere I missed a detail that appears to be important at the end of the book. Hester's middle name was Josephine. Was there another Josephine mentioned elsewhere in the book? I feel like I've missed a clue.
    Thanks to anyone that can answer this.

  4. Holly, good question, as I don't remember any other characters named Josephine. Does it refer to someone in another work of classic literature, I wonder?