Does it seem as if each and every book review you read here at Mt. Hope includes the words 'highly recommended'? My reading time is extremely precious to me. I don't care to waste it reading a book that is less than what my time is worth. When I add a book to the to-read list, I'm usually sure that it will inform me, stretch me, help me see the world in a new way, entertain me, or be a beautiful work of art. I value the recommendations of certain people or book lists. The few times I read a book that fails to capture me, I am unmotivated to spend the additional time reviewing.
In trying to expand my reading repertoire, however, I am bound to come across books that aren't favorites. I knew going into The Thirteenth Tale that it might not be my cup of tea. It has been compared to certain classic Gothic novels, some of which I loved, some of which I disliked (Wuthering Heights, Rebecca). I usually stay away from dark novels, and in retrospect I probably should not have chosen this book at this very particular time in my life.
How does one review or recommend a book when enamored with half of it and repulsed by the other half? I don't know.
The writing alone brings to mind the words lush and delicious. The words tumble off the pages like a rushing waterfall. The story itself is dank and eerie.
The Thirteenth Tale is a celebration of words and books and literature. It captures the essence of classic Gothic novels. Jane Eyre, The Woman in White.... It also contains incest, rape, sadism and masochism, and grotesque death. These are all central to the story, but don't necessarily consume it.
The ending may disappoint the readers who are suspicious of a neatly wrapped-up story. I, for one, like my packages (and stories) wrapped up with a bow. I was thankful, especially in this raw novel, to have plenty of emotional closure when all was said and done.
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.
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. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled. And during this time, these days when I read all day and half the night, when I slept under a counterpane strewn with books, when my sleep was black and dreamless and passed in a flash and I woke to read again--the lost joys of reading returned to me.