The Thirteenth Tale

The main reason behind my inconsistency of reading is my slippery mind. My attention span is so small and erratic that I am always having a hard time about sticking to one task at a time. It is always fleeting from one interest to another, creating a pattern that is undecipherable to me as well. As a result I am always struggling to finish a book in time. And there is the catch. It took me exactly three days (or to be more precise, three long nights) to finish this book. I usually don’t get time to read a book during daytime. Or there is too much chaos in light that thwarts my concentration. So when everyone else sleeps I read.

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The Thirteenth Tale is a Gothic novel by Diane Setterfield that was published back in 2006. I first came across it while browsing on Goodreads quite a while ago. Then it remained forgotten in my long list of ‘to read’ waiting to be remembered someday. Eventually that day came. The Thirteenth Tale has two central characters. Two women. One young, one old and dying. One is the narrator of the main plot. The other one is the narrator of the story within the story. And if you wonder what made a fickle minded person like me finish a 406 page book in 3 days I would say it’s the narration. There are books that hypnotise your mind while reading. The magic of storytelling is so strong between their covers that you remain glued to it until the very end. And even when you are not reading it keeps your mind occupied the entire time. You start to count minutes and hours until you get time to go back and pick up where you have left off.

The story begins when biographer Margaret Lea receives a letter from the most popular author of England, Miss Vida Winter. A bestselling author of all time Vida Winter is an enigma herself. Nobody knows about her past. One of her books Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation has earned the status of a myth because of the missing thirteenth tale. She told her reader twelve tales but the thirteenth tale was never published. Standing on the verge of death she invites Margaret Lea to tell her the story of her life. The thirteenth tale.

The Thirteenth Tale is the story of a family. It narrates how one incident or its repercussion leads to shape the lives of others as well as of future generations. Every family is made of generations of love, grief, conflict and most importantly, of secrets. For decades one sin, one secret continue to accumulate after another and one day it reaches the climax and everything erupts like a giant inferno that changes everyone’s life forever. Both Vida Winter and Margaret have their own secrets. And slowly, with time their lives, their sorrows, their pain and losses get entwined with each other through their journey back to the past. Narration is everything in this book. The story within the story unfolds itself like a mirage deluding you from one mystery to another. Even if you know it all you know nothing. It runs between past and present sometimes in a linear fashion sometimes haphazardly. But of course the present is nothing but an elongated shadow of our past only. So you have to be patient until the last moment. The melancholy note in the story was so strong that it tried to suffocate me all throughout. Sometimes while reading I would feel a shiver through my spine and look over my shoulder. The constant eerie sensation made me almost insomniac just like Margaret herself. I was sad yet relieved when I turned the final page.


p.s. I am happy to have blogged a book post after so long. Although the happiness could truly be attributed to some other factor as well. I don't know, I am yet to solve the mysterious ways my mind actually work.

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