Reading Journey 3: The Boys by Katie Hafner

Hello, fellow bookworm! Today I'm going to share with you updates on the book that I am reading, The Boys by Katie Hafner.  It's about an introverted man Ethan who fell in love with Barb, an extroverted woman. They thought that they complemented each other but it turns out their differences drove them apart.  In the beginning, Ethan left the most impression on me because of his introvertedness to which I could relate. His sad childhood made me identify with him more. When he met Barb, it's so nice seeing he's opening up to new experiences. Barb was his total opposite. She loved to explore the world.  They got married, went to an amazing escapade in Italy, but when they fostered twin boys, their relationship became wobbly. It was aggravated by the pandemic when people globally literally stayed and worked from home. This part made the story realistic as I also experienced staying at home, social distancing, and the wearing of the mask and plastic face shield.  The strain

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield



    In her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, British writer, Diane Setterfield, crafted a peculiar, Gothic tale about the twisted life of a family living in a monstrous Angelfield House. The Thirteenth Tale is Setterfield's breakthrough novel as it has sold more than three million copies in 38 countries and got her to win the Quill Award, Debut Author of the Year in 2007. In 2013, the story was turned into a BBC film with the award-winning scriptwriter, Christopher Hampton, and award-winning actresses, Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave. Setterfield was an expert in nineteenth-century French literature before shifting to writing novels. Her literary style in the writing of The Thirteenth Tale is influenced by Gide, the father of modern French literature.

OVERVIEW

    In The Thirteenth Tale, popular, prolific writer, Vida Winter, had a secret life that she meant to bury forever. But, as she was dying, she divulged her secrets by telling the missing thirteenth tale of her book Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a compilation of common stories about princes, peasants, and maids with dark twists. The title was changed to Tales of Change and Desperation since it only contained twelve stories.

    Margaret Lea was handpicked by Winter to write the latter's story. She almost gave up the opportunity but Winter was able to convince her after saying the word 'twins '. The sound of the word echoed in her heart and triggered a painful part of her own history. She acquiesced and, beyond her awareness, she was hauled into a rabbit hole filled with grotesque stories of a ghost, loss, survival, identity, and love.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 

  1. Vida Winter was a virtuoso in creating stories that are not necessarily true. How did this affect her credibility?
  2. As a biographer, what was Margaret's attitude toward Vida's stories?
  3. Describe the Angelfield House and its symbol in the story.
  4. Are there questions left unanswered in the book? What are these questions?
  5. Discuss the realizations of the main characters at the end of the story.

QUOTES

"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."
-- Margaret, Page 8

“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.”
-- Margaret, page 17

"All children mythologies their birth. It is a universal trait."
-- Vida, Page 26

"There are times when the human face and body can express the yearning of the heart so accurately that you can, as they say, read them like a book."
-- Margaret, page 228

"It's better not to have a story at all, rather than have one that keeps changing."
-- Aurelius, page 392

WHAT I LOVED

  • The prose of the novel is like a smooth-riding road that makes the reading journey easy but memorable. The descriptions brought to life the people and places. One scene that I couldn't forget is the room of Charlie after he made himself reclusive and stayed in his room for several months. As Setterfield described the room, I wrinkled my nose as if I could smell the filth.
  • Vida Winter was living up to her character as an author. She was indeed a great storyteller, ingenious and stealthy. The twist in her own history confounded me, asking myself why I missed seeing it coming.
  • Margaret Lea took every story of Vida Winter with a grain of salt. She analyzed the word used by the storyteller, the characters involved in the story, and the little details she encountered along the way that gave clues to the deeper side of the story. I liked her for being perceptive.
  • I loved the story of the ghost in the house which is the trickiest part of Vida's history.

WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE

  • While the story of the Angelfield House and the people living in it was heart-wrenching, I couldn't place the character of Aurelius into their fold. I felt detached from his story which  seemed rushed. I was hoping to know him more.

SUMMING-UP

    Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale brings readers an eerie experience through the story of twins, a ghost, and the people that came before them in the huge house with an unexpected twist in the end. The author makes the characters come alive and places become vivid with her skillful technique in describing them. The well-written story is also telling of what happens when the very basic need of a human being is not met -- the love of a family.

    Even though I was not captivated by all characters, some left a great impression on me especially the two narrators, Vida and Margaret. Vida's stories are more than their face value. Discernment is crucial in identifying which parts of her stories are the truth and which are the lies. On the other hand, as a reader, Margaret reminded me to be careful in believing all the details of Vida's lore.

    All in all, the book was a great read. The Thirteenth Tale is one of the most unique stories I've ever read. It encompasses a wide range of themes such as identity, family, belongingness, survival, and love. It has a different kind of scariness that is rooted in the depiction of the dark side of humanity set in a huge dwelling of anger, madness, and filth, which the storyteller adeptly used in conjuring a tale that appears to be haunting.

    Readers who love stories about family and loss with a Gothic feel would surely enjoy The Thirteenth Tale.


FURTHER INFORMATION

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Book Information:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Published on October 9, 2007, by Washington Square Press; First Trade edition
432 pages (Paperback)

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