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friedag

The Thirteenth Tale - Ready to discuss?

friedag
17 years ago

Ooh-ooh! I finished this a couple of days ago and I'm champing at the bit to get a discussion started. Talk about a book right up my alley...many thanks to Sarah Canary for bringing this to my attention.

Anyway, I see several other RPers have read or are reading this and I bet we can have a good confab. Sheri or Pam53 or Frances, would one of you like to get this ball rolling? I'm flying out in a few hours so I'll be out of pocket for a while; and since I don't have my copy with me I can't cite specifics right now, but when I get back online, I will have lots to say -- well, don't I always?! :-)

I am looking forward to this!!

Anyone who hasn't read TTT yet, be warned: There will be SPOILERS.

Comments (80)

  • sheriz6
    17 years ago

    maggie, no such thing as silly questions! I believe Charlie went off to an out-building on the property and shot himself right after his sister died. Vida says that Adeline (or was it Vida herself?) saw him dead there, but didn't tell anyone for fear of having the children taken away.

    Weren't the bones in the house from whichever twin died in the fire? When I first read that part I was sure they belonged to the governess. It was quite a relief to find her in America at the end of the story.

    I'm not sure what the digging represented, though the surviving twin was pretty mentally gone and any weird behavior might just be weird behavior? Or perhaps that's the only evidence we have that the survivor was Emmeline since she was looking for her baby. Or, again, it could have been Adeline looking for Emmeline. Twisty stuff in this book!

  • maggie5il
    17 years ago

    Oh, that's right, that's right. I forgot about her finding Charlie....I had to take a big break in reading the book and had forgotten that detail.

    As to the bones, weren't they found behind a wall? I, too, at first thought of Hester. So you assume Vida "buried" the other twin there behind the wall?

    It is, indeed, a twisty story.

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  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    I could not find this anywhere in town, but located it today out in the tiny branch library, in the rural area where I'm staying at a friend's house. We'll see if I can get through it before I must return to the city....

  • carolyn_ky
    17 years ago

    My daughter called me last night to see if I had heard of this book. She bought it, so I won't have to wait until all those 40-something people ahead of me at the library are finished. Be back later.

  • mary_katherine
    17 years ago

    I read the book and I liked it, but it is over-hyped in my opinion. what did you think of the incest - did you think it was consensual, or not? I think Isabelle must have been a victim and not a willing participant because of her young age and the large age gap between her and Charlie. But she did have some power over him because he was quite obsessed with her. I still think she was a victim though.

    I didn't much care for that aspect of the story, actually.

    do you think the book will hold up on rereadings? I am curious about that. Now that I know "what happened," I'm not sure I will ever want to read it again. Maybe once more. That's what makes me think the hype was too much, unlike many of the books the author references that can be read over and over again.

    I have to say I enjoyed reading it though.

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    Incest to me usually implies rape, tho I know its not always the case. In this one tho, given Charlie's behavior (see third twin), I think it was. And I don't think that Isabelle felt any power over Charlie. The obsession was his and his alone. She was his victim

    I do agree that this was over hyped. Bugs me because there are many wonderful reads out there which get little to no publicity and are soon on the remainder shelves. I know thats the way of the industry, but when I am this disappointed in a book that is so hyped, I just think how unfair it is.

    I usually love rereading a book with a twist, to see if I can find more clues. I have no interest in doing that here. The story, the twist, just wasn't all that interesting.

    I wonder if this book would have been better in third person, or in first person with vida being the narrator. Leave Margaret's story out of it.

  • sheriz6
    17 years ago

    While I do agree this was over-hyped, I really enjoyed it. I liked the twists and turns, I loved the book-related aspects of it, and despite Charlie and Isabel, I was intrigued by the family story. I do think this was a solid and enjoyable book.

    As for the incest, didn't Isabel meet Charlie's initial taking-her-off-to-the-woodshed by smiling and cutting both herself and him? (I've loaned my copy of the book to a friend and don't have it handy to check.) And wasn't she able to avoid him when she wanted to? In the strange universe of this story, I think Isabel was just as twisted as he was, and I could be persuaded to believe she was a willing participant when it suited her -- not something I would ever believe in a real life situation! I didn't sense she feared him, really. Am I off on this interpretation? I will re-read when I get my book back.

  • sherwood38
    17 years ago

    I finished it yesterday, although it was an enjoyable read, I agree it was over-hyped-and definitely not a book that any man I know would enjoy.

    I too thought of Barbara Cartland when Vida was being described, and did wonder if Setterfield had used her as her model!

    It did have a very gothic feel to it and as I wrote to a friend when I was decribing it as I was part way through it, it was impossible to pin down the time period.

    People wrote letters to each other and traveled by train-no mention of cars or phones - until page 334! All of a sudden Margaret is using the phone and riding in a car to the train station, I did wonder why such an abrupt insertion of these things when all along Setterfield seemed vague about letting we readers know what time period these events take place.

    I felt that the surviving twin was Adeline, I would like to think that if she knew it was Emmaline that survived that she would have taken the baby back thinking (knowing) that finding that the baby was alive would have helped in E's mental recovery.
    She saw no need to take the baby back if it was Adeline who survived because she already knew that it was the jealousy of the baby that had driven A. to set the fire to destroy the baby, so Vida felt it was safer to leave the baby be raised by Mrs Love. (An interesting name to give the woman?).

    It was interesting that Setterfield chose to tie up those loose ends, but never mentioned Charles's body being found. Lomax has Charles declared dead, but how much time passed-we aren't told. As I recall a person in England would have to be missing for at least 7 years before became declared dead, although I believe that has now changed

    Pat

  • maggie5il
    17 years ago

    sherwood38 - your thinking on Adeline being the survivor makes a lot of sense.

    I remain confused how Emmeline (assuming she's the deceased twin) was buried in the wall after the fire. Just doesn't ring possible to me.

  • sherwood38
    17 years ago

    I didn't take it that the body was found buried in the wall.
    Margaret tells us that the bookcases fell in the fire and made 'a coffin of bookcases' and "A grave hidden and protected for decades by the beams that fell".

    Pat

  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    What a page-turner! For me, it was not over-hyped at all. I appreciated the fine writing, for one thing, and all the clever literary references. I started the novel about 1 p.m. yesterday and almost read straight through the night, until I finished at 5 a.m. I've not been this captivated since "Turn of the Screw" and "the Historian."

    Perhaps the romantic soul in me was left unsatisfied in that Margaret and Aurelius did not obviously team up at the end, as it seemed they needed each other.

    I found the examination of the twins so fascinating: their symbiotic relationship, their unique private language, all the psychology, etc. It made me re-examine 2 sets of twin girls I knew well in my childhood, in terms of what was "normal."

    I had not seen the "third sister" coming, but appreciated the plot twists and turns. As for which twin survived, I assumed it was Emmaline, but perhaps I am wrong....

    This is one I might re-read in future, but I would not go so far as to purchase it.

    I have a question for Frieda, fan of duMaurier, and others: did you pick up on the veiled references to "Rebecca", in terms of some of the names: e.g. Winter and deWinter, and the great fire at Manderly, and other telling details? I know nothing about the author, but felt she was an admirer of the style of duMaurier.

    And yes, I felt Isabel was as dysfunctional as Charles, that their relationship was mutual and symbiotic.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    Forgot to cover the aspect of "time" in the above: I assumed the latter part of the book took place in the Forties or Fifties. I noted the lack of even rudimentary technology as we know it, as well as a reference to a "phonograph record." I assumed that the War referred to was WW II, but am willing to stand corrected....I think the author deliberately avoided obvious cues to the times as being a possible distraction to the singular atmosphere she wished to create-- a literary device?

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Sheri and Mary, I also got the idea that Isabelle was willingly complicit in the goings-on between her and Charlie. And it does happen in real life, sometimes. So, Sheri, if you are "off on this interpretation," you've got company. :-)It did have a very gothic feel to it...

    Pat, I'm confused. Do you really think TTT feels very gothic?

    Mary, I did notice "Winter" being very similar to "de Winter" and yes, of course, the fires at both Angelfield and Manderley. But DduM, herself, appropriated the fire scene from Jane Eyre. Setterfield could have been inspired by either fire scene, but I'm betting on Bronte being the greater influence on her. As for Setterfield admiring DduM's style, I think she would -- or she should, if she understands the exquisite combinations of DduM's plots, characterizations, and beautiful phrasings. ;-) Setterfield's writing is not as elegant as DduM's -- not yet, anyway, but then Daphne's first couple of novels weren't her best, either. Still, Setterfield has made a promising start, in my opinion. I think the author deliberately avoided obvious cues to the times as being a possible distraction to the singular atmosphere she wished to create...Maybe that was her intent, but it backfired with this reader! I've been terribly distracted by the timeline. Oh well.

    Sheri, as you predicted, the backlash has apparently begun in some quarters. And it's too bad. Oh, the curse of unfulfilled expectations!

  • sherwood38
    17 years ago

    Frieda-I did feel that it was a 'contrived' book, and yes very gothic. When I was describing my impressions early on in reading the book to a friend, I said that it reminded me of Northanger Abbey - the feel of that book at least.

    Since Setterfield has 'used' books such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as others have mentioned in her plot I can only conclude that it was deliberate....you don't agree?

    Pat

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Pat, I very much agree that Setterfield worked Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and other gothic novels into her own story. But, if she meant to capture the kind of atmosphere that defines the gothic genre, I don't think she succeeded. I described above what I expect a gothic novel to feel like -- to reiterate some aspects:
    impending danger to the heroine (sometimes the protagonist is male, but not usually)
    the essence of place (e.g., the moors, a castle, a dismal swamp, a secluded island) that is as much a character as the people
    a feeling of uneasy anticipation (even when you've read the book before and you know what is going to happen).

    Interesting that you thought of Northanger Abbey, because I cited it above as having much more atmosphere (spoof that it is) than Setterfield's story.

    I dunno, maybe my idea of gothic is not fluid enough, but I was rather ticked off at the publicists for a bait-and-switch job. Fortunately, I was able to quell my ire, because TTT turned out to please me well enough -- and a lot better than many ballyhooed releases.

    Contrived. Intriguing word choice there, Pat. Hmm. Yes, I can see plenty of contrivance.

    If nothing else, Setterfield succeeded in writing a novel that has given us a profusion of ideas to ponder and talk about. This is a great discussion!

  • gooseberrygirl
    17 years ago

    On the incest question....I believe that Isabelle was a willing participant. Darn...I took the book back but when she returns after her husband died didn't she say something to Charlie to the effect of "I'm back and you know what that means" or am I misremembering?

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Perhaps the romantic soul in me was left unsatisfied in that Margaret and Aurelius did not obviously team up at the end, as it seemed they needed each other.Mary, as I thought more about it, it suddenly struck me that the element I most missed in this story was romantic tension. Most gothics are really romances, at heart: Rochester and Jane, Heathcliff and Cathy, Theodore and Isabella, Mary Yellan and Jem, Maxim de Winter and No Name, Jonathan Harker and Mina -- the Count and his Elisabeta...

    I kept expecting something to develop between Margaret and Aurelius, though through my mad calculations I figured he had to be at least thirty years older than her! What little romance there was in TTT came very late to Margaret and the doctor, and seemed like an afterthought. Personally, I would have enjoyed a few more truly romantic angles, clichéd though they might be, to balance the less savory elements of incest and debauchery. That's it! The story is lopsided. I've finally put my finger on why I felt naggingly dissatisfied as I read, though only slightly so. It's good to clear that up in my head. :-)

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    frieda, your comments on both the lack of gothic characteristics (and I agree with your definition) and the lack of romance are very apt, and I think they are the reasons why I was so dissatisfied. Thanks for that insight.

  • sheriz6
    17 years ago

    Frieda, yes, that's it! I was expecting a romance somewhere in there, I was even ready to accept the age difference between Margaret and Aurelius. That's what was missing in the mix.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    Frieda, yes! You've hit the nail on the head. Thanks for putting my own thoughts into words so skillfully. ----lopsided, lacking in balance....The age difference between M and A never bothered me, as in my own family there are marriages with a 20 year difference.

  • mary_katherine
    17 years ago

    that's a great point about the romance! I didn't think about it, but it was missing. It would have enhanced things to have a romance instead of that somewhat (in my opinion) less-than-ideal subplot about Emmeline's son - I can't even remember his name. The way he was wandering around and talking to a total stranger about his torment regarding the lack of a mother - that was hard for me to believe. It was one thread too many and I know that the English were not always as reserved as they were believed to be, but there were already so many characters in substantial distress that I didn't like reading about his anguish as well.

    Incest is a very touchy issue for me. That's why I didn't like the way she handled it. whether it's me, her, or some combination, I didn't like it. I'm not saying she should have been PC, but...under the circumstances she describes, a consensual incestuous relationship is very unlikely. I think there was a 9-year difference between Charlie and Isabelle and she was very young when it started, maybe 6 or so? Plus Charlie was very violent. In real life, a consensual relationship can happen when the parties are close in age and the activity is not forced. I understand that people of the time would have condemned Isabelle, but the author seemed to as well, and I didn't like that.

    but then, I thought Isabelle's relationship with her father was creepy too. He was obsessed with her (when he was still kinda functional) to a degree that made me wonder if there was some sexual abuse, whether overt or that he couldn't keep his eyes off her, so to speak. That part was really weird. He almost loved Isabelle like she was the reincarnation of his wife, and maybe that set her up with Charlie, I don't know.

    anyway, sorry for going on so much. A romance would have been nice. And this is trivial, but - what is the thing with green eyes being both beautiful and creepy? I see so many books where the heroine is described as having green eyes, even though I think it's rare in the population.

    I'm glad I read it. I did go to the website for it and thought it was a little OTT. However, reading it has made it easier for me to put down other books that just are not grabbing me. I wasn't bored by it and so when I read some other book and feel bored, I think that maybe it doesn't have to be that way.

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    I didn't get the feeling that the author was blaming Isabel, or suggesting that it was consensual. Given what I know of such cases, I think she probably long ago gave up what ever power she had to say no - if she even had any to begin with. I agree with you about Isabella and her father; that was creepy as well, and that relationship probably made it easier for Charlie to do what he wanted.

    Green eyes rare? Well, in our family they are the predominate color (if you include hazel). Brown is probably the most common, but I don't see green or blue eyes as rare. As far as its use in books - green eyes are often used to describe someone who is unusual, while someone who is going to be in a romantic relationship often has blue eyes. I don't know why that is.

  • karinicole
    17 years ago

    I may have an idea about Isabelle. As many people on here have indicated, her relationship with her father was obviously inappropriate. Many of you read into it, as did I, and there was likely some sort of sexual abuse. The main reason I see it is because her behavior indicates it. I'm sure you've heard of cases of kids, teenagers even adults cutting themselves. Isabelle does this at the age of 5 when Charlie first decides to torment her. She then goes on to have what is probably a masochistic relationship with Charlie. Generally people who do that were abused in some way.

    I know this is slightly off track of my other thoughts... but I think that Adeline was the twin that Vida saved from the fire. I don't think that she would have given the baby away otherwise. Vida was smart enough to know the difference between the two and she also would have known that having the baby around would help in Emmaline to recover had she survived.

  • Chris_in_the_Valley
    17 years ago

    But how did Emmaline's treasure box survive? I don't see Adeline grabbing it on the way out of the fire.

    I enjoyed this book very much as a pure reading experience. Just now I needed a page turner I was anxious to return to. BTW, did anyone else find a bit odd the idea of a voracious reader such as Margaret reading between the hours of 8 and 2, and then waking up an hour before breakfast and NOT picking up the book to continue? I confess that I, too, have been known to take my exercise, but when I wake up early I pick up whatever book is handy. I don't go for walks.

    The time aspect of the novel didn't bother me because I saw it as a story out of time. It was also, I thought, a story about time. The Thirteenth Tale. Why thirteen? Perhaps I'm stretching it a bit, but what sprang to mind for me was "the clock struck thirteen." There was no thirteenth tale, so we were left with 12 and to me that means a clock. Except that the 13th tale did exist and was a Cinderella story. But there we bring in the stroke of twelve midnight. Vida was adamant about the story not getting ahead of its time. Everyone in the story seemed to be waiting about for time to pass. Charlie was indifferent to time. His meals appeared, with decreasing regularity, and he ate, or not, depending upon his desire. How much time had passed before anyone noticed he hadn't been seen? Hester tried to restore some order and timeliness about Angelfield, but that didn't last. The only activity at Angelfield was the passing of time, with its attendant decay.

    The only thing creepy about the book was the picture of the author on the back flap. Staring in a coy way at the camera with her forehead against the wall, she appeared to be a woman who mostly lives a fantasy life.

    My eyes take on a glorious green hue when I'm wearing green. Unfortunately, so does my skin.

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    Hee, me too! I can wear some shades but others - ew

    I do agree with you about that author picture - thought it odd and can't really say why. I didn't get the feeling from the pic that she lived in a fantasy life - perhaps I got that from the book?

    I love your idea about time - yes, that does factor into many of the aspects of the book. Which might explain why she didn't really give us much of a time line here, or really mention a specific year or time of the book.

    >find a bit odd the idea of a voracious reader such as Margaret reading between the hours of 8 and 2, and then waking up an hour before breakfast and NOT picking up the book to continue

    Not odd at all to me. You read when you can and when you are comfortable. I find I have to walk - for excercise and to clear my head. So it didn't cause me to wonder, I just remember nodding my head in agreement!

  • janalyn
    17 years ago

    I just finished this book at 1 in the morning and was delighted to read all of your comments above.

    I had no expectations because I had read nothing about it. Nor have I read the reviews or the links above. I thoroughly enjoyed it for a variety of reasons:

    1. Literary allusions. I loved the echoes of names and scenes from some of favourite books. I saw Jane Eyre in Hester in terms of character/description and her growing relationship with the doctor who eventually treated her as a colleague out of respect. There was a scene where a stormy Adeline retreats to a window seat and hides, reminding me of a younger, wild Jane who did the same thing. Â The neglected Adele (another similar name) and the neglected twins. IsabelleÂs insanity, the reference to a family history of mental illness and RochesterÂs wife. Â. The ruined house, the fire and the scarring. But whereas Rochester tried to save his ill wife, Vida tries to kill in order to keep Emmeline for herself. And in the cruelest of ironies, she saves the wrong one. Yes, I think it was Adeline who was rescued. Early in the novel, Vida describes herself as a ghost and that on the night of the fire she lost everything. She lost Emmeline. When the twins were first separated by Hester, Adeline became almost catatonic, entirely in keeping with the surviving twinÂs behavior. Vida looks after her out of guilt and lives joylessly.

    Some of you have pointed out the references to other books. The Woman in White, Wuthering Heights, for example. The scene where Vida spurns Ambrose even though she is not indifferent, and he turns to her and demands to know "Am I not good enough for you?" "You canÂt read," I said, "and you canÂt write!" That scene reminded me of Heathcliff and Cathy.

    I could give more examples but this would be pages long. I just liked the way Setterfield borrowed scenes and snippets from all of these books and tweaked and twisted them to make her own story. Early on in the novel, Margaret is reading is reading her fatherÂs copy of The Thirteenth Tale and notes, "Peasants and princes, bailiffs and bakers boys, merchants and mermaids, the figures were all immediately familiar. I had read these stories a hundred, thousand times before. They were stories everyone knew. But gradually, as I read, their familiarity fell away from them. They became strange. They became new."

    It definitely made for good old-fashioned story telling.

    2. Atmosphere. I didnÂt find it scary because somehow Margaret was just so sensible and I had the feeling that she was writing this biography in the late 1950Âs. Unlike those early gothic novels, Margaret would have gone for help if things had gotten out of her control. I never felt she was in danger. Anyway, it was actually someone elseÂs story and the really frightening bits had happened 60 years in the past. As a reader, there was no immediate threat that would have made me jump or hide under the...

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    I want to thank all of you who participated in this discussion. This has been a great thread because I am amazed -- as I always am -- at the insight and perspective each of you has added. To those of you who posted after I fizzled out (Mary Katherine, Cindy, karinicole, chris in the valley, and Janalyn), I want you to know that I read what you wrote with great interest. As I read, I uttered (often out loud):

    Yes.
    Yep, I agree!
    Wow! I never thought of that.
    Hmm, I must have missed something, somewhere.
    Now, that's a novel interpretation!
    Huh?

    Sometimes I was so befuddled I didn't know whether to agree or disagree -- not because of what you wrote but because Setterfield left us so much room to interpret. When a writer does that, I find it both appealing and maddening. Do you?

    Anyway, as the details of the book fade in my poor old memory, I'm left with this opinion: I've read better books in my day, and certainly more memorable ones (especially those I read when I was a teenager), but I've seldom had better conversation about a book. Setterfield, of course, should get some credit, but I enjoyed you guys more!

  • jojoco
    17 years ago

    May I join in? I am new to this forum, but not GW. A few things on TTT: I did not love it. I thought it was just okay. I would have loved to have read a review on it in the 1800's. I found the book a cliche of the gothic style and was surprised it took 3 years to write. It was almost as if Setterfield had a checklist: Moors, check; creepy house, check; things that go bump in the night, overgrown garden, check, check.
    I did like certain things. I liked how the narrative was always put on hold. Intentionally or not, this was how the book may have been presented if it had indeed been written in the 1800s. It could have been read as a weekly serial book. I thought her book reflected this possibility. I also thought it was Emmeline who perished. I thought that because Vida's first reaction to seeing the surviving twin was originally shock and then the words "I feel my heart die". The author is so ambiguous. I was also peturbed by the incest. I felt that Isabelle was oddly distanced from the whole thing, but knew her power. Also remember the odd flirting scene in the woods when Isabelle caresses Sybilla and tells her that she need a "beau...For the tickling," Isabelle had to explain. "It's much better with a beau." And then Isabelle says how she knows "Charlie."
    Wierd stuff. I particularly liked John the Dig. As his name implies, he was the one thoroughly grounded character. Wandering through these pages and then finding him was always reassuring.
    I am enjoying the discussion. I have a book club meeting on this book tonight and am curious to see how it was received by my friends.

    Jo

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    Welcome Jo! You can join in anywhere, any time. Please check in later and tell us what your bookclub thought!

  • janalyn
    17 years ago

    I am laughing because I reread my post that was written at about 2 in the morning. I don't think I would have been so verbose if I had waited a day or two. My memory cells have a shorter life as I age!
    Yes, welcome Jo and any other lurkers out there. I know there are a number of people from my real life book club who read this forum but are too shy to post.....and I am going to bug them about it at our next meeting at my house!

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Hi, Jo. I'm echoing Cindy and Janalyn. Yes, please do let us know what your book club members think of TTT.I would have loved to have read a review on it in the 1800's.Heh! I can imagine apoplexy.

    Janalyn, I loved your 2:00 a.m. stream-of-consciousness style. See, you had everything fresh on your mind and it just came tumbling out. I would have to reread the book to respond intelligently, but it seems you noticed things that I didn't, or that I had already forgotten. You think your memory cells are short-lived? I swear mine don't last more than a day or two. I just don't understand, though, why I can remember the books I read when I was in middle school and high school so well.

    Now, what's with people being too shy to post?! Janalyn, tell your book club people that we need an infusion! Fresh minds, fresh ideas, new perspectives...all are welcome.

  • jojoco
    17 years ago

    My book club loved the book. They all believed Emmeline perished. A few thought too many characters were too thinly developed, and when asked about the incest, most felt it was disturbing, but not rape. It was my first time going to this club and I was somewhat disappointed by the superficial discussion. But, in their defense, a lot of wine was consumed and we had fun on other subjects. They have picked a light, Dave Barry book for a quick read/meeting before the holidays.
    Jo

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    >I was somewhat disappointed by the superficial discussion

    This is why I often leave RL book groups. I stay with the one I'm in because I know the folks well, but my expectations of actually discussing a book satisfactory are low. Thats why I love online book groups!

    I think incest is rape for the most part - even if the victim is willing, its often the case that there isn't much of a choice.

    >As his name implies, he was the one thoroughly grounded character

    Hee, good catch. Yes he was. I felt horrible when his garden was destroyed.

  • carolyn_ky
    17 years ago

    I have just finished the book, read within 24 hours and finished on an appropriate cold, rainy afternoon. I really did like it.

    I have to say I thought it was Emmeline who survived--after all, one doesn't have to be a doctor to see who has borne a child. But after reading this thread where some of you said Vida would have gone to get the baby, and especially re Janalyn's comment of Vida early on saying she had lost everything in the fire (which I had forgotten), I think it probably was Adeline who lived.

    I definitely think the incest was mutual, based on the arm scratching with the rusty wire incident. Charlie and Isabelle both seemed to me to be perverted. How could their children be normal no matter their upbringing?

    Like most of you, I also liked the inclusion of the classic novels and their references. The time element didn't bother me. I did notice once Margaret referred to staining the knee of her trousers, and what was that with all the references to the trimming and shavings of the pencils?

    Liked the wrap up and, finally, a love interest for Margaret at the end. I found this a thoroughly satisfying, good story. Thanks for starting the thread, Frieda.

  • frances_md
    17 years ago

    I mentioned this earlier in the thread but since that time the discussion of TTT has been rather extensive and Diane Setterfield has joined in to answer questions. Because I have just started to review the threads there, I haven't found whether someone asked about which twin survived the fire but I do hope someone has asked the question of her. If the link doesn't work, just go to barnesandnoble.com and click on Book Clubs.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Barnes&Noble Book Club

  • cindydavid4
    17 years ago

    Frances, that has been the focus of much of the discussion. I did see that Setterfield was over there, but saw the number of posts in that thread - yikes! :) But I bet its all good reading. How long is she going to be there?

  • rosefolly
    17 years ago

    I loved this book. I read it in one big gulp, pretty much ignoring the rest of my life for two days, finishing up at midnight two days ago. I wish I had posted right away, as Janalyn did shen she finished, because so much of it is already slipping away.

    Here are just a few responses to comments others have made.

    I though Isobel and Charlie had a consensual if twisted relationship, and that the original damage (probably to both of them) was done by the father, neglect in Charlie's case, and an overabundnce of inappropriate attention in Isobel's.

    I thought that the surviving twin was Adeline, an Adeline traumatized by the loss of her sister. I can't account for any other way Vida would have left the baby.

    I liked Margaret tremendously, for her love of books (which I share), for her sensible, practical outlook, and for her vulnerability. And while I wanted her to find love and happiness as she well deserves, I don't think she was ready to participate in a relationship until she had come to terms with her loss. That happens over the course of her hearing Vida's story.

    Wasn't Vida a marvelous character? Beneath that Barbara Cartland exterior was a strong and heroic survivor!

    I loved Aurelius too. I was very pleased he got the family he had been longing for all his life.

    I should mention that I was not aware of the hype that surrounded this book. I wonder if misdirected enthusiasm on the part of the publisher's marketing department contributed to some readers' disappointment in this book.

    Rosefolly

  • kren250
    17 years ago

    I hope nobody minds if this long-time lurker/occasional poster weighs in on this one!

    Overall, I really liked The Thirteenth Tale. The "third child" twist surprised me; I did not see that coming at all.

    The one thing that did annoy me about the book was all the typical "twin cliches". I have identical twin girls (4 years old), and so often read about (in fiction) books the so-called twin language. I belong to an on-line message forum for parents of twins--with 100+ members--and not one of us has ever had an experience of "twin language". The only thing my twins did when younger is sometimes mis-pronounce the same word--as did their younger brother (17 months younger). To me the whole "twinness" in general in this book was just very cliched.

    As for which twin survived, I thought it was probably Adeline....just because if it were Emmaline, wouldn't the doctors at the hospital realize she had recently given birth? It was never menitioned, but I guessed she was probably nursing the baby since no mention of bottle was ever made (plus they'd have to buy them at the store, and wouldn't want to draw attention to the fact). If Emmaline had survived, when she was in the hospital for her burns you would think the doctors/nurses would notice she was a nursing mother. Also, the fact that Vida left the baby leads me to believe she also thought the surviving twin was Adeline--but it was so devastating for her to think about that she went along with the fantasy that it was Emmaline.

    Kelly

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Rosefolly and Kelly, I'm glad you added your thoughts!

    This really is an amazing book for the discussion it has generated. I tried to read all the postings again to tally how many thought it was Adeline and how many thought it was Emmeline who survived. I lost track and gave up, but I think Adeline was ahead. The opinions for each, though, are so well argued that I do the flip-flop: yes, it has to have been Adeline; no, it must've been Emmeline; no...I just don't know!

  • showgirl-xo
    17 years ago

    Hi Everyone, just a question regarding Hester's diary.

    I had just finished reading this book about 10 mins ago and I must say aside from the "which twin survived" angle, I'm even more perplexed with the question of how Hester's diary survived? "How did it survive the fire?" the doctor asked Margaret- and as Setterfield went out of her way to tie-in most lose ends it bothered me that she brought this question up without providing an answer. Setterfield seemed to have left this one important fact unexplained on purpose. Just as I thought things were nicely tied together, it made me question again: Have we been told the story in its entirety and did Vida tell us the COMPLETE truth?? Because for all intents and purposes that box should have been destroyed in the fire. The fact that Vida makes a point to give the diary to Margaret but does not explain how it survived presented an important disturbance in her story. But then again maybe it was just untouched by the fire but I was under the impression they never went back to Angelfied after the fire- besides why would a small box be found and rescued while completely missing the dead twin body in the middle of the library... it doesnt make sense?

    I do not believe it is merely a lose end and am almost convinced the diary was given to Margaret for this specific purpose of creating ambiguity towards the end; the diary did not contain any special clue unlike all the other components of the story- it was added so it could be used as a tool for ambiguity. Did Vida tell the entire story?

    Also regarding which twin survived. A nagging fact convinces me that it was Adeline that survived: Remember when Vida went back inside the burning house and she grabbed who she believed to be Emmeline twice or three times and told her over again "He's safe, your baby is safe" and she just looked at her uncaring of the statement just wanting to return to the fight... that seems to be characteristic of Adeline; not caring about anything but just wanting to beat the crap out of her sister. Also there is the digging... Emmeline had adjusted to life without her twin when separated by Hester and Doc.... it seemed more likely for Adeline the more aggressive and untamed of the two to seek out and dig to find her twin who is dead much like an animal.

    But then again wouldn't Vida have known based on behaviour and mannerisms which twin survived? If she knew Emmeline perished in the fire, why would she then refer the Adeline as Emmeline?

    Anyway I am sorry for rambling on, I have not read many books with such an ambiguous ending although I have to share the post-script did annoy me as I felt it made the book less dramatic. I would have preferred it ended with the telling of the thirteenth tale.

  • veer
    17 years ago

    Just finished TTT so I don't know how many people will even remember the story or look back at this.

    These ideas/impressions wont be in good order but:

    Time Frame.
    I felt the 'modern' story was set in about 1960 give-or-take.
    Margaret was still able to travel with great ease by train to almost anywhere (train lines were drastically cut after the mid-60's).
    She wears a hat and gloves ( though a hat seems rather old-fashioned). Her builders also wear 'hard hats' which I don't think they did in the '60's.
    Somewhere it says that Aurelius was born in 1900 and that 'now' he was 60.
    Ambrose (A's father the young gardener) joined the army and served for many years, not necessarily because of War, and was 50 when Karen (the women with the 2 small children from the Lodge) was born.
    Possibly the twins were born in the mid 1880's?
    But for those days some things don't add up.
    The thing about the 'telescopic' metal-runnered ladder seems a bit unlikely for those days . . .the one John fell from.
    John's saying 'I've got it sorted' a horrible modern expression in the UK.'
    Unlikely there would have been bathrooms in the house. Remember Charlie's disgusting bathroom off the nursery.

    Various mentions of horse and trap, carriage etc then one passage about John in the coach house 'mending the car'.
    I think DS suddenly realised she needed petrol to start the fire so Adeline could be seen lugging cans of the stuff from the coach house. Not in 1900 (or before) she wouldn't. How many cars were there on English roads then? Virtually none, and no handy petrol/gas stations down the road.

    Someone asked why the twins were not at school. This would not have been strange in the England of the 1890-1900's.
    They were from a supposedly well-off family and girls of this background would have been taught at home, they would never have gone to the village school and the governess was found for them when they were about 10-12. Certainly there were no Social Services to nosey about.
    The incident with the 'boy' seen by the governess digging in the garden feels wrong. It was quite common for children as young as 10 to be out at work or go to school only part-time.
    It was stranger that the loathsome Charlie never went to school.

    No-body mentioned what I found to be far-fetched.

    Once both the housekeeper died and John followed possibly within a year(?) the twin(s) changed from being little short of tamed wild animals to talking normally, being able to cook, to read fluently, handle money and even deal with a solicitor. Even if this girl had been the Vida character would this have been possible?
    She also managed, on her own, to deal with the birth of Emmeline's baby.

    Re Hester (governess) diary I felt that part was added for padding. It didn't give us another angle to the story. Perhaps the publishers said "We need another dozen pages"

    I couldn't work up much, if any enthusiasm for Margaret. I found her to be a wimp, couldn't shake hands...

  • friedag
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Vee, I can no longer respond to most of your comments because this book just did not stick with me. It generated a better discussion than most novels, though, because it was so maddeningly vague about some things.

    The main impression I'm left of it -- after six months or so -- is that Setterfield's idea had the potential of being a heck of a lot better than what she actually produced. Unfortunately that's a common problem I've found in most novels I've read in the last few years -- ones that have been written and published in, say, the last fifteen or twenty years, anyway. I really can't figure out why novels disappoint me so often nowadays when novels that were written forty, fifty, and a hundred years ago still seem good and fresh to me.

    I don't know about general "gushing hype" in the UK, but I know at least two Britons who were quite taken with Setterfield's book. Frankly, though, I've begun to suspect that my friends aren't as picky about novels as I am.

  • veer
    17 years ago

    Thanks for responding Frieda. I think if I had left it until next week to write my comments on the book I would have been hard pressed to remember the salient facts.
    In some ways these suddenly popular/heavily-hyped types of books we discuss here . . The DA Vinci Code or maybe The Kite Runner come to mind (neither of which I cared for!) seem to start a healthy discussion whereas the chosen 'Book of the Month' too often goes nowhere.
    As for enjoying modern novels . . . I find I just don't care what happens to the characters; put it down to advancing old age.

  • janalyn
    17 years ago

    Ackk!! - I haven't visited here for a couple of months and find that Vee and Frieda have turned into a pair of crotchety old ladies....I happen to like crotchety old ladies and am aiming to become a very eccentric one myself, but I am not there yet. :-)

    What happened to the word "fun" when it comes to books? Vee, you must have read that book and taken notes at the same time - or turned it into one of those red-inked essays that were handed back to us by our English teachers many moons ago. No wonder you were irked by the language or period errors!

    TTT was an entertaining story, in the ice cream cone category. In my earlier post, I said, "Not classic literature, by any means, but a perfect story for me to read by the fire on a blustery November night. It was memorable and fun." No, I don't think you'll ever find this one being taught in an English class!

    But the occasional ice cream cone isn't going to do one any harm either....

    This may come down to reading styles and I think I've mentioned this at RP before. I'll forgive a writer a lot if I have been entertained or think it's an interesting story idea. (Hi Dan Brown's DV Code!) OTOH, I read Ian McEwans's Antonement and enjoyed his writing style so much that I forgave him for a ho-hum dragged out plot.

    The WOW! books are those that combine good writing with a good plot and I'll use Louis de Bernieres books for that example, only because they've been discussed here at this forum and he is a modern writer. (And I have them on my KEEPER shelf, along with the Atwoods - who also is a fine modern writer, btw - and Saramago - and McMurtry's Lonesome Dove - and etc etc.)

    "Frankly, though, I've begun to suspect that my friends aren't as picky about novels as I am." That could be Frieda! And when I come to visit you Vee, I am bringing a scooter to replace that wheelchair you need for "advancing old age" so that we can raise the dust on your country roads. I also intend to throw away the magnifying glass you use when you read "ice cream cones."
    Love you both,
    J

  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    LOL! Welcome back, Janalyn!

  • janalyn
    17 years ago

    Hey Wood Nymph! Thank you. And I just realized that I owe Mr. McEwan an apology - maybe not, tho - the book that I read was Saturday. On the basis of that book, I was going to look up Antonement to see if the plot moved a little faster. I do like his writing and since I know you are one of his fans, which one of his books do you think is best?

  • woodnymph2_gw
    17 years ago

    Janalyn, my personal favorites by McEwan are "Enduring Love" and "The Comfort of Strangers." (But I also liked his "Black Dogs" and "Cement Garden." )

    Hope you are back to post with us for a while....

  • veer
    17 years ago

    So, Janalyn, we meet again. I think, my pretty one, you have been feeding on human flesh.
    Come closer so my old dim eyes can make out those young tender limbs. Let me lead you to the freezer so you can chose your very own ice cream cone . . . pause for maniacal cackling

    Now you ask, and I will tell you I had a very long wait for the TTT but had purposely put off looking at the above thread.
    The book finally arrived all new and shiny last week and I struggled through the first 50+ pages. Then I came back to this page and through reading all the ideas/questions/comments I found when I went back to the book I was reading it from a more questioning point of view.
    And No, for me it wasn't an entertaining/fun story! It had no atmosphere either spooky, historical, romantic. I know people like Margaret. They can bore for England.
    In fact, in a typically English way the thing DS did best was . . yes . . .the weather.
    Janalyn by the time you get over here I really will be a little old grey-haired lady (OK maybe a female, I don't think even my best friend would call me a lady).
    I doubt that I will remember who either I or you are.
    You have been warned . . .are you starting to feel just the teensiest bit chilly?

  • janalyn
    17 years ago

    Phooey. You can't frighten me with your false, feeble fables of freezers full of flash-frozen female flesh from former friends.

    When you are raising hell in the nursing home, I will arrive with pen and paper to record your biography and unleash the secrets of your tortured soul. I'm sure you have a twisted twin or triplet somewhere in your background. And with your assistance I will make sure that it is authentically done and I will also share the millions we will make once it is published.

    Actually, our weather is very similar to the English fog, mist and gray that is so wonderful for the complexion. Not so good for the frown lines, though. It has been a particulary dreary few months so I took a break from the Very Horrible Job and went to Cuba for 2 weeks - and it is there that I learned the joy of scootering (is that a word?) down hot country roads.

    Umm, when do things warm up in your corner of the country?

  • veer
    17 years ago

    Janalyn things are unusually warm in England for the average April, with no rain for well-over a month (most of it fell in Jan/Feb). The blossom is out, the daffs are over and the jackdaws are again trying to nest in our chimneys.
    I'm already digging up information on my two 'other thirds' for you to produce a splendid tale of corruption in High Places, Blue Blood, Murder Most Foul, treachery, Dark Deeds at the Crossroads plus a short chapter on the art of flower arranging for light relief.