Review: Het dertiende verhaal, Diane Setterfield

Het dertiende verhaal Diane Setterfield cover
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long.
Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness—featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.
Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

Diane Setterfield is a British author whose debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, became a New York Times #1 bestseller.
Before writing, Setterfield studied French Literature at Bristol University and specialized in 20th century French literature, particularly the works of Andre Gide. She taught at numerous schools as well as privately before leaving academia in the late 90s. She lives in North Yorkshire, England with her husband and four cats, and is currently working on her second novel.

I read this book years ago for the first time but could still remember the feeling it left me with. The years after when someone asked me if they should read this book I would tell them they should. I would tell them I could still recall the feeling of surprise with the development of the story. When this book was chosen as one of the book club reads I decided it was time for a re-read. Curious if the book would leave me with the same feelings.
This book is heartbreaking, beautiful and surprising. It is a mystery and you can puzzle what you want but it cannot be solved before the author wants you to know the solution. Which is in the last pages of the book. You get some teasers in the story giving you the feeling that it really is to simple but something will happen to throw you of again.
Next to the mystery us the story about family and twins. How family bonds can make you do things you where not expecting. How loss can break hearts and influence generations in a family. How other people try to hold on to what is supposed to be normal and acceptable or try to make up for other mistakes. This part of the story is very confronting and I am curious how twins feel about this book because the twin part of the story is taking such an important place.
I know that in the upcoming years I will continue to advice people to read this book. Some of the quotes I loved in this book:

“There are too many books in the world to read in a single lifetime; you have to draw the line somewhere.”

“As for you, you are alive. But it's not the same as living.”

“To anyone who took the trouble to look, I was plainly visible, but when people are expecting to see nothing, that is usually what they see.”

“Every so often I take out a volume and read a page or two. After all, reading is looking after in a manner of speaking. Though they're not old enough to be valuable for their age alone, nor important enough to be sought after by collectors, my charges are dear to me, even if, as often as not, they are as dull on the inside as on the outside. No matter how banal the contents, there is always something that touches me. For someone now dead once thought these words significant enough to write them down.”

“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”

Het dertiende verhaal
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Uitgeverij Mouria
ISBN-10:  9045848244
ISBN-13:  9789045848242
Pages: 430
Format: Paperback
Original title: The Thirteenth Tale
Uitgeverij Mouria:  Paperback

5 star review

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3 reacties

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19 March, 2013 delete

I loved this novel! I wish Diane Setterfield wrote more novels. Did you read this in Dutch or German? (Sorry for asking)

19 March, 2013 delete

Hi Melinda,

Thanks for dropping by. I read this book in Dutch :). There has been a second novel from Diane Setterfield in development for ages now I wish she would finish it already heheh.

25 March, 2013 delete

Me too! I enjoyed this one, I would've thought she would've done one by now...