Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield (Contains Spoilers)

This is a book selected by my Book Club: The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield.

Here is my book review:

I found this novel to be quite enjoyable. It is a great mystery novel. I especially enjoy the "who is who?" as far as the twin's identity, Adeline and Emmeline. It was fun trying to find out whether Vida Winters was Emmeline or Adeline Angelfield. I found Vida Winters, the main character, to be a wonderfully mean and ornery old woman. She was plagued with disease, old age and sorrow; but as evident in her vibrant green eyes, she was full of life. I liked her character the most.

Second place goes to Hester. She was a scientific genius who unfortunately was way ahead of her time. She was governess, mistress of the house, care-taker, psychologist and so much more. She provided the discipline the twins needed that was sorely missing in their chaotic, care-free lives. Together with the town's Doctor, Hester produced an experiment determining the effects of separation between twins. This experiment did not go well. I knew that a loving relationship between Hester and the Doctor was blossoming way before they did. It was obvious that two people with so much in common would come together in matrimony. Too bad that they had to wait for the Doctor's wife to pass away. I suppose divorce was taboo during this time and not an option for the Doctor.

I absolutely abhorred Isabelle, the twins mother, and Charles, the twins uncle. Their relationship was truly disturbing and detrimental to all those around them. Just like the association and companionship between the Doctor and Hester, the amorous relationship of these siblings, Isabelle and Charles, was apparent in the harmful interactions between the two. They led violent, psychotic lives. It was expected that their end would be just as brutal.

I enjoyed the ever present themes of death, loss, family, sisterhood and love. The use of the "wolf" as the metaphorical representation of death was a very clever. Vida made a deal with the wolf, her disease that was slowly eating her body and soul. The agreement was that the wolf would let her tell the twin's story and at its end, the wolf could claim and consume Vida. It was brilliantly written.

Similarly, the agreement between Vida and Margaret was interesting. I am one of those individuals who interrupts and asks questions instead of just listening to the entire story first. It was interesting how Vida was adamant about telling the story from beginning to middle to end, in that order.

I almost forgot Aurelius. I loved him and found him to be absolutely delightful. He was one of the second biggest mystery and secret of all, compared to Vida. I was constantly trying to figure out what was his role in the story. How does his piece of the puzzle fit into the entire scheme of the story? It was a wonderful subplot and woven very well into the entire novel.

The twist at the end was truly unexpected. I thought that Vida was Adeline. Then I thought, well maybe she is Emmeline. The result was a big surprise. I will not post it as it is a spoiler and am not sure if all have finished the book.

The only portion of the book that I did not find enjoyable was the trials and tribulations of Margaret's character. I found her to be very weak. I just didn't really feel her pain compared to the agony that Vida had endured during her lifetime. Margaret's loss seemed to pale in comparison. I think that maybe since I am not a twin, I cannot empathize with the loss of a twin sibling. Or perhaps it is really that I cannot understand how you can feel the loss of your sibling if you never knew that individual. Margaret's twin died at birth and she never grew up with her. So I cannot understand how she feels this vacuum in her life where her twin should be.

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