Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review for "The Thirteenth Tale" {by Diane Setterfield}

TITLE OF THE BOOK: The Thirteenth Tale
AUTHOR: Diane Setterfield
PUBLISHER: Atria Books
GENRE: Gothic Suspense novel

Famous author Vida Winter has spent her life weaving spellbinding tales of alternate lives for herself. Now that she is old and ill, she is ready to reveal the truth about her haunting and extraordinary past. She is ready to reveal her truth to Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness of the feral twins, a ghost, the mysterious disappearing of a governess, and a devastating fire. Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets and the ghosts that haunt them still.


4.25 stars out of 5

Our Group Review:

"A good lie is always more dazzling than a broken truth."

Wow. We loved the twists and turns this book took us through! This suspenseful mystery was a perfect read for October. We collectively agreed that the writing was magical. Diane Setterfield has a beautiful way with words and really drew us into this "ghost story" and kept us guessing until the very end.
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” ― Diane SetterfieldThe Thirteenth Tale
Ashley moderated this book club and did such a wonderful job. She asked us deep thought provoking questions and provided fun entertainment of a quote quiz and Bibliotherapy recommendations.

Q: How does the truth help the main characters?

A: Vida’s past about her childhood and her story of how she came to be where she is now, haunts her every day. Because she was old and ailing, she needed to tell her story. She had kept it secret for so long because she felt that it wasn’t just her story to tell. It was then after she told that she found peace and could leave this life.

For Margaret, the truth had two sides. On one hand, she loved knowing that she had once had a sister. She felt that she was often with her on several occasions. On the other hand, it was hard for her to know that because of her sister’s death, her mother avoided her and could never celebrate her daughter’s birthday with her. This made her feel like her mother would have rather that they both die because she served as a constant reminder every time she looked at her. She also felt that maybe her mother blamed her for being the twin who took most of the nourishment.

Q: How have you felt when finding out the truth?

A: We discussed personal stories of times when we found out the truth and immediately wished for the comfort of the lie that we lived with. Other’s told stories of how the truth had unburdened them but put more of a burden on the receiver. Was it best to tell the truth or should we have kept it to ourselves to be burdened with.

Ashley read this quote from the book,

“I reached for the prescription. In a vigorous scrawl, he inked: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course.”

She then told us that this quote reminded her of something she had heard of called Bibliotherapy.

Bibliotherapy is an expressive therapy that involves the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. It uses an individual's relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. Bibliotherapy is often combined with writing therapy.

Ashley provided us with prescription papers that we could write in what ailed us and read off the books for our "ailments" to write down our "prescription." SO FUN! Such a fun way to get help with things that haunt your own lives.

Below is a list of common ailments and some suggestions of books to read to help treat your problems that you might be dealing with daily.

Accepting yourself
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Managing anxiety 
The UnbearableLightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Collected Poems - William Wordsworth
CollectedPoems - Edward Thomas
The Turn of theScrew - Henry James
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim

Managing and overcoming depression and low mood 
The Chronicles ofNarnia - C.S. Lewis
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
The Blandings ShortStories - P.G. Wodehouse
The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
Captain Corelli'sMandolin - Louis de Bernières

Disability: understanding and helping others
House Rules - Jodi PicoultDescription:
Human Traces - Sebastian Faulks
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
Forrest Gump - Winston Groom

Overcoming a fear of death
The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Rain Before it Falls - Jonathan Coe
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson 
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márqu
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery

Persevering through hardship
The Odyssey - Homer
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Experiencing insomnia 
Collected Poems - Robert Frost
The Garden ofEvening Mists - Tan Twan Eng

Heartbreak and questions of the heart
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery 

For more Bibliotherapy recommendations go HERE

Here is a prescription pad I made for you to use at your own book club party!

Our discussion bounced around a LOT and we ended up talking about the book for a long time because we had so many questions and points of interest to gossip about. I've added a list of discussion questions below that you can use for your book club discussion and if we discussed a specific question I added our answers in below.

Discussion Questions for the Thirteenth Tale.

1. Much of the novel takes place in two grand estates—Angelfield and then Miss Winter's. How are the houses reflections of their inhabitants?
A: Like their inhabitants, Margaret's room and Miss Winter's home retreat from the world. The little room, hidden above the bookshop, is a sanctuary, a place for Margaret to withdraw and read, to return to her true home in the pages of the novels she loves. Like Miss Winter herself, who is "a perfect mystery" the author's home is guarded by walls and surrounded by a labyrinthine garden. The deceptiveness of the garden, where paths seem to go on forever and getting from here to there can seem impossible, mirrors the barriers Miss Winter has thrown up to those seeking her biography even Margaret. Margaret, lost in the garden, discovers the previously unsuspected presence of Emmeline in Vida Winter's home, as she eventually discovers the ghost at the center of Vida Winter's story.

Similarly, Angelfield, the ancestral home of a family in undeniable decline, riddled with incest and violence, is a disquieting place. It does not welcome, but repels.The house, like the family, turns in on itself.

2. As the story unfolds, we learn that Margaret and Miss Winter are both twins. What else do they have in common?

3. Margaret and her mother are bound by a singular loss—the death of Margaret's twin sister. How has each woman dealt with this loss, and how has it affected her life? If her parents had told her the truth about her twin, would Margaret still be haunted?
A: See our answers above

4. Books play a major role in this novel. Margaret, for example, sells books for a living. Miss Winter writes them. Most of the important action of the story takes place in libraries. There are stories within stories, all inextricably intertwined. Discuss the various roles of books, stories, and writing in this novel.
A: The Thirteenth Tale is a novel framed and shaped, virtually permeated, by books. From the fictional book referred to in its title to Margaret's deep love of books — deeper than her affection for most people — to Miss Winter's renown as a great author, books are the lifeblood of the plot. Jane Eyre, in particular, exerts an almost magical pull on the story, shaping events in ways obvious to readers of both books. Like The Thirteenth Tale, Jane Eyre is the story of a foundling raised in wretched circumstances and forced to make her own way in the world; Aurelius doesn't read far enough into the book — or know enough of his own history — to realize it is not his story, but his aunt's. The fire that destroys Angelfield, like the fire that engulfs Mr. Rochester's home, is both disfiguring and liberating, freeing the survivors from the burdens of the past even as it leaves them with scars both physical and emotional.
In the end, The Thirteenth Tale is a different book from Jane Eyre, more similar to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

5. Miss Winter asks Margaret if she'd like to hear a ghost story—in fact, there seem to be several ghost stories weaving their way through. In what ways is The Thirteenth Tale a classic, gothic novel?

6. Miss Winter frequently changes points of view from third to first person, from "they" to "we" to "I," in telling Margaret her story. The first time she uses "I" is in the recounting of Isabelle's death and Charlie's disappearance. What did you make of this shifting when Margaret points it out on page 204?

7. Compare and contrast Margaret, Miss Winter, and Aurelius—the three "ghosts" of the novel who are also each haunted by their pasts.

8. It is a classic writer's axiom that a symbol must appear at least three times in a story so that the reader knows that you meant it as a symbol. In The Thirteenth Tale, the novel Jane Eyre appears several times. Discuss the appearances and allusions to Jane Eyre and how this novel echoes that one.

9. The story shifts significantly after the death of Mrs. Dunne and John Digence. Adeline steps forward as intelligent, well-spoken, and confident—the "girl in the mists" emerges. Did you believe this miraculous transformation? If not, what did you suspect was really going on?

10. Dr. Clifton tells Margaret that she is "suffering from an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination" when he learns that she is an avid reader of novels such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Sense and Sensibility. What do you think he means by drawing such a parallel? 
A: (See our discussion about this above where we talked about Bibliotherapy.) 

11. When did you first suspect Miss Winter's true identity? Whether you knew or not, looking back, what clues did she give to Margaret (and what clues did the author give to you)?

12. Margaret tells Aurelius that her mother preferred telling "weightless" stories in place of heavy ones, and that sometimes it's better "not to know." Do you agree or disagree?

13. The title of this novel is taken from the title of Miss Winter's first book, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a collection of twelve stories with a mysterious thirteenth left out at the last minute before publication. How is this symbolic of the novel? What is the thirteenth tale?

14. When do you think The Thirteenth Tale takes place? The narrator gives some hints, but never tells the exact date. Which aspects of the book gave you a sense of time, and which seemed timeless? Did the question of time affect your experience with the novel?

A: I hate not knowing things. In “present” time (at least, the time where Margaret is chatting with Vida) I noticed a lack of cell phones, and zero mention of computers. Margaret writes everything with pencil and paper, and in spite of the availability of telephones, writes plenty of letters to accomplish her widespread correspondence. This makes me think she fears long distance phone charges, perhaps? I suppose she could have just been a bit of a luddite and shunned technology, but I’m placing the “current” time roughly in the 1960s-70s. I mean, they were snowed in for 5 days with a dead body, for heaven’s sake. I blame old timey snow plows.

The early story makes no mention of technology. The books that are already in publication in the library give a concrete era for the book to be set AFTER but it lacks specifics. Titles mentioned include Jane Eyre (1847), Wuthering Heights (1847), The Woman in White (1859), and Sense and Sensibility (1811). Cumpulsory education in England started somewhere around 1870, and since Hester Barrow expressed concern over the mysterious village boy not being in school, it’s safe to assume this was written after that. I’m guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1890-1900… Which if Vida is in her 70s jives fairly well with my time frame for the “present.”

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