Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Second Read of The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought a book at the flea market today (because I really NEED another book…). The cover and the title, "The Thirteenth Tale," caught my eye. Seemed somewhat familiar, so I opened the book and scanned a page but the character names didn't ring any bells. The first paragraph on the front flap described it as a novel about a woman unraveling a missing story and a mythologized birth, and it's set in the 20th century. That's all I had to read and I was like "I am SO IN." So I paid my dollar and walked away hugging my book. (Yes, I really do hug books.)

When I got home and looked at the book again, the spark of recognition turned into a brighter flame. Reading through the entire flap this time, bits and pieces of the story began to come back to me. Sets re-materialized in my imagination and characters bounded back into my brain. In fact, scenes played in my head as if on fast forward, emotions felt toward certain characters bubbled up, and I even vaguely remembered the twist of the ending. I've definitely read this before, and it was a really good story even though I don't remember the details (but that makes it even more fun to re-read!).

Some people may have been disappointed to purchase a book they'd already read (even if it was only a dollar), but I found my reaction was more akin to the excitement of coming across an old friend that you haven't seen for a really long time. (And don't you give an old friend a hug when you see them? See? :) I must've sold my copy or given it away before I left New Jersey—I sold a lot of books trying to lighten the load on the truck (didn't do much good and I regret some of those sales still). But here is at least one returned home to my library of favorite reads. The imprint page (which I find almost as interesting as the story these days) says it was first published in 2006 (this one is a hardcover first edition too; my favorite kind!). 2006 was a couple years before I moved to California. Not as long ago as I supposed, but easily long enough for other stories to have crowded this one to the back stacks of my neurons.

This isn't the first time I've come across a used book that I forgot I read before. I figure if it's turned up in my life again, it was for a good reason. I don't believe in coincidences. Ironically, I looked up the author to see what else she's written, and it so happens that she hasn't published another novel in the last seven years. However, she does have one in the works—Bellman and Black—and it will be released on November 7, 2013. (Yay for not even having to wait too long!) Perhaps that's the only reason this one turned up again, because although Diane Setterfield was on the NYT bestseller list, I definitely would not have remembered to keep checking for her next book. (I hope Diane Harkness doesn't take that long with the third book in her trilogy!) My mystical brian likes to think this is the ultimate marketing trick: to be able to reach your former audience after seven years absence to advertise your new release by making your debut book turn up in their path! I hope when I have multiple books out, I can manage that too!

Very much looking forward to Setterfield's new release as well as the re-read of The Thirteenth Tale.  This one and her new one should definitely be on your "To Read" list.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review for A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing. When I started this book I didn't have high hopes. I'd heard a lot of bad reviews from friends and reviewers alike. In fact, I refused to spend money on it. It so happens that I work for a publisher and I ran across the book on our sales team's shelves so I asked to borrow it. (They gave it to me. Didn't want it back.) I'm not fond of politics and there was A LOT of character development, which also doesn't generally hold my interest when it goes on for too long. When I was still in the first half, "tedious" was the word that kept coming out when I was asked how I liked the story. However, somewhere a little past halfway I realized I was actually looking for time to continue reading, dragging the book with me everywhere. (I've always said if you're bargaining with the clock, that's a good sign.) I was thinking about the characters and Rowling's writing even when I didn't have the words in front of me. My brain was untangling knots I didn't even know I'd picked up. I found myself deeply impressed with Rowling's insight into people's innermost thoughts and personality quirks. It's so accurate it's a bit uncanny. The intertwining of the psychology of Self as well as community was yet another level that snuck up on me. In fact, I didn't even realize all the levels this book made me think on as I read it - I only started counting the staircases as I sat afterwards and looked back at all the paths I'd been led down without realizing. The more I think about it, the more I see. In the first half I thought surely Rowling had killed her career (not that it matters when you're richer than the Queen). Now - *now* I see the genius. Most novels dole out happy juice to your frontline neurons all the way through, a little at a time, and thus "a good book" is very satisfying. This story leads you along in such a way that weeds out those who can't/won't see, or never explore, the space between. If you've never been in the dark back alleys of your own brain, you won't get it. Only if you're persistent and aware do you find the rush of revelation at the end that leaves you high while your brain grasps all the truths and keeps finding more hidden in the depths. In fact, I'd say the majority won't/don't get this book (hence the reviews). It's too far above normal thought.

As I turned the last page, one ironic word replaced the original description in my head: authentic. This book is extremely authentic.

Well done, Joanne.

View all my reviews