All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale, by Dianne Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale, by Dianne Setterfield, is a light-as-dandelion-fluff mystery novel perfect for the beach or pool. The story features Margaret Lea, the daughter of a bookseller father and an emotionally remote mother, who is contacted out-of-the-blue by the prolific and popular contemporary author, Vida Winter. Lea had dabbled in biographies, but was by no means a well-known author, and she is puzzled why this famous author would contact her, an author whose works she hadn’t herself read.

One of Winter’s works is entitled “The Thirteenth Tale,” which was published with only twelve stories. Subsequent printings of the book deleted the reference to thirteen stories, but interviewers and fans of Miss Winters’ were fascinated by the notion of a tale not told. In fact, Miss Winter was a difficult subject to interview. She invented stories about her past, and would routinely weave tales for journalists who sought to tell the story of her life. Winter revealed to Lea that she was once asked to “tell the truth” and she was now ready to do that. She would tell her tale to Margaret Lea.

Winter tells Lea that she cannot interrupt, ask questions, or attempt to “skip to the end.” Lea discovers that the author is in failing health from an unnamed condition, and wants to “tell the truth” now that her story may otherwise go untold. What she reveals is a convoluted, cruel, and sometimes perverse family history involving twins, orphaned children, incest, arson, rape, and murder. Settlefield writes in the style of Gothic fiction, so her treatment of these elements of the story is not graphic.

As the story is unraveled through Winter’s interviews with her biographer, Lea begins to investigate on her own to learn if the story Winter is telling her is true. What she finds surprises her, and allows her to help Miss Winter unwind the final elements of her story.

The Thirteenth Tale is an entertaining book, quick to read and full of suspense. There are some loose strands at the end of the story that seem to be left untied, but otherwise the story is wrapped up in a satisfying ending. The Thirteenth Tale was published by Atria Books in 2006.

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