Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale

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.
pg 17

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.

pg 32

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.


Beth@Pages of Our Life said...

I love the "images" that those two quotes create. The words do seem to roll off the page.

I love the fact that when you read a book you are not just visiting with your own thoughts but the thoughts of others.

Oh to be wrapped up in a book! I just read half of "The Swan House" and had to lay it aside. I too hate it when I have invested my precious time into a book that I cannot finish.

I joined a local book club and that was the selection. I found out that I wasn't the only one in the group that found the book lacking.

Okay, it was nice visiting with you today!

BTW, I always appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into your posts.


Anonymous said...

I'm short on time right now, but popped in to let you know that I just LOVE your blog!! I always enjoy your entries and photos. I was catching up on your blog a few days ago and enjoyed your "Day in the Life" entries. (I also read Ali Edward's blog and enjoyed her entries too, but I have yet to do my own. You two have inspired me, though.) I hope you are feeling better. I'll be back later to finish catching up.
Stacy :-)

Skeller said...

Sooooo.... maybe I'm being dense ... are you recommending this book?!? It's one I've toyed with the idea of picking up since before it was even published. But ... y'know. I know it's probably not one I will love, or maybe even like, and yet it's quite well written. Oh, the dilemma.

I totally know what you mean about those seasons when you ought not to read a certain type of book. I love and respect everything Chaim Potok has written, but I can't even think of reading his books when I'm in a depressed place myself (those times, I know the book will just take me deeper... and that's no good.)

I just finished Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott - a very well written book. Multi-layered and rich and deep and poignant and thoughtful and restrained. And yet, in a few places, quite distasteful (to me, anyway). Not a book I will carte-blanche endorse to everybody (or put on my blog favorites list), but a very good book, methinks.

Anonymous said...

I had a difficult time with this book as well. I just couldn't seem to get into it, no matter how much I wanted to. And I agree on neatly wrapped endings.

Heidi said...

skeller~ That's just the thing. :) If you are in the mood for something dark and delicious and feel like you can get past the distasteful parts, I would say it is very well written and has moments of brilliance. If you think the dark or distasteful stuff isn't something you could make it through right now, definitely skip it. Clear as mud?

Renee said...

I loved reading both Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, so this sounds like a book for me!
Are you feeling better?

count it all joy said...

Hi I'm Meredith from Sydney, Australia. Just wanted to share that I adore your blog. Our book choices are scarily similar (except you are FAR more accomplished in the classics). When I was a teenager, I subconsciously classed girlfriends into two categories - those who loved Anne of Green Gables and those who didn't. Luckily for me, I married my very own Gilbert Blythe (sounds like you did also).

Congratulations on your commitment to providing a neo-classical style of education to your beautiful children. It must be quite overwhelming at times, but you seem to manage it all with such style and finesse! I don't normally write such long comments, but when I saw that you'd just finished reading the book that is next on my list, the coincidence AGAIN gave me a giggle. Thanks again, for your beautiful blog.

laurel said...

I had mixed thoughts about this book as well. I read it several months ago, and have thought about it many times since.
Have you read any of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon? There is no possible way that I could possibly ever do them justice, so I will just say that if you haven't, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend them. After reading them, I compare all other books to the Outlander series. They are truly that good.

Kristen M. said...

My book club read this last spring. One thing is for certain, it brought about a lot of discussion.

Aja Jenise said...

Amazing review, and quotes as well. I too, cannot bare to read a book unless it tickles my mind, or in some instances stretches me spiritually. I have a difficult time reading novels, only because I cannot see the value in my time spent in the land of my imagination, for fear my children will find the scissors or learn to get into something they have otherwise overlooked. I do sooo enjoy historical fiction, as it is the only slice of history I can stomach. Then I find it delectible. As you mentioned the darkness of the Tale... I have found it harder to read them as I get older... a funny thing... since I am in actuality 'growing up', but in reality I find more fear creeping into me as I huddle my children under my wings. So, I terribly enjoy living through your bookly experiences and tellTale (telltale an enticing and revealing sense)reviews. It's always off the greatest interest to see how the story reveals something in us... as with the quote of reading in the Thirteenth Tale... I could just imagine you as you read those lines... I always want to highlight or post those lines on the wall... those lines that just out at me. Thanks for the reveal Heidi. That was a Diet Coke and M&Ms moment for me.

Renee said...

On second thought, maybe this book is a little too dark for me right now, too.

ibeeeg said...

I keep hearing about this book and have not really known what it is about. After reading your review, i am a bit intrigued but at the same not certain if I want to read this book...not certain I am up for "incest, rape, sadism and masochism, and grotesque death:.

Although, the quotes you have chosen are in themselves very intriguing.

Hmmm...I think I will wait for when I am "in the state of mind ready mood" for dark themes.