Monday, September 03, 2007

Thirteenth Tale

Haunted by the loss of a twin she never knew and wasn't supposed to know about, Margaret Lea, the daughter of an antiques and collectibles bookseller, accepts Vida Winter's strange offer to come stay with her and hear her true story. Ms. Vida Winter is a famous--a world-famous--author. She's known not only for her excellent prose, but for her ability to spin a story--a web of lies--for the journalists and reporters that come round every time a new book is released. There are hundreds of printed stories about Ms. Winter's childhood circulating about. None of them are true. Miss Lea knows this, of course, when she goes. The invitation was so touching though--leaving words that echo down deep inside her--that Margaret just can't say no.

Preparing for her journey, Margaret immerses herself in Winter's novels. Within a matter of days, she has fallen in love with the way this woman tells a story, writes a book, crafts a narrative.

Of course one always hopes for something special when one reads an author one hasn't read before, and Miss Winter's books gave me the same thrill I had when I discovered the Landier diaries, for instance. But it was more than that. I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled. And during this time, these days when I read all day and half the night, when I slept under a counterpane strewn with books, when my sleep was black and dreamless and passed in a flash and I woke to read again--the lost joys of reading returned to me. Miss Winter restored to me the virginal qualities of the novice reader, and then with her stories she ravished me. (32)

The story is a weaving of the past and present. Each day Miss Winter shares a little bit more of her life story. The beginning. The middle. The end. Each night Margaret is haunted not only by her day's work but by the loss of her twin. Her own family secrets. Her own hurts and pains. The story is both Miss Winter's and Margaret's. Secrets. Lies. Broken families. Ghosts. Violence. Loss. Betrayal. Love.

The Thirteenth Tale is an unforgettable read. Enjoyable from cover to cover. It's haunting. It's powerful. It's one-of-a-kind.


Carl V. Anderson 1:03 PM  

You are correct, it truly was an unforgettable read. What a fantastic book to read for the opening month of the R.I.P. II Challenge. It sets the perfect tone for everything to follow. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. If you're interested, my review from last year is here:

Becky 1:35 PM  


I expected it to be good. But I didn't expect to be SO swept away with it. It's rare that I fall in so fast with a book. It really is spell-binding. Every time I read a review where it was praised so highly, etc. I thought it was just hype. But this time, the book really delivers :)

Annie the Superfast Reader 2:10 PM  

I quoted the exact same passage when I blogged about this book a few months ago! I loved it, too--

Anonymous,  4:17 PM  

I found your site through RIP II. I read The Thirteenth Tale last October and found it the perfect spooky read. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it also!

Dewey 5:37 PM  

I just loved this book! I'm so glad to be getting new comments on my post from the RIP challenge, because that might mean I'm talking some people into giving it a try! I have to go check out Carl's review from last year!

Petunia 6:01 PM  

I too loved The Thirteenth Tale when I read it in January. It was definitely a favorite. A perfect read for the RIP II Challenge.

Eva 7:51 AM  

I loved it as well! I read it in early January, when it was freezing outside, and I just stayed under the covers with mugs of hot tea. :) It was great!
(here're my thoughts at the time:

Ana S. 5:03 AM  

I love the idea of a book for book lovers. Everyone tells me such wonders about this book - I really think it's time I read it.

Thanks for another great post, Becky.

Literary Feline 12:54 PM  

I too found this to be an unforgetable read. I read it last year and it was among by favorites. Wonderful review!

Framed 6:22 PM  

I'm so glad I added this book to my R.I.P Challenge. I'm really looking forward to it.

Marina 10:36 PM  

I've said it before in other comments, but I really am kicking myself for not having my own copy yet (I read it via rented audio). I don't have many books that I reread once, let alone multiple times, but I think that this will be one of those.

Bookfool 9:06 PM  

Hmmm, unforgettable. I guess. Not in a good way, but I keep thinking there must be something wrong with me to have hated this book when everyone else loved it so much! I love her style, I'll say that much.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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