the books of the thirteenth tale

I finished listening to The Thirteenth Tale over the weekend, and I’m looking forward to writing in more detail about it soon, but I’m not quite ready to yet. There are pieces of it I want to reread and mull over before discussing it in greater detail; it’s a book that takes some serious thought and consideration to fully (or as fully as possible) grasp.

But as I’ve been thinking about it, I came to the realization that I’ve never before read a novel that so fully revolves around other books and stories. Not for the sake of its plot; that is entirely Setterfield’s own. But the atmosphere, the characters, the settings — all are shaped by British literature of 18th and 19th centuries. And the reliance on and repeated mentioning of these books make me want to curl up with them myself.

A quick (and not complete, I’m sure) list of the works mentioned:
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
The Woman in White
The Castle of Otranto
Lady Audley’s Secret
The Spectre Bride
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Villette
Middlemarch
The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes

I’ve read Sense and Sensibility, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wuthering Heights to various degrees of enjoyment, and though I haven’t read The Case Book, I am familiar Sherlock Holmes. I’ve long been meaning to read Middlemarch, and I’m now adding the Woman in White to my list as well.

It is my love of Jane Eyre, however, that truly makes me identify with the characters of this book. Jane Eyre is one of the few books where I can distinctly remember when I read it (at least for the first time).* I received it as a Christmas gift when I was 13, and quickly fell for it. I credit Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece with opening my eyes to the richness of classic literature; though I’ve still only read a fraction of the amazing works out there, I may not have dared to approach even many of those had it not been for Jane Eyre crossing my path first. It’s a book that I’ve read several times but haven’t revisited in years; after finishing The Thirteenth Tale, I’m thinking I may need to make some time to do exactly that soon.

*Pre-Goodreads, of course; now I document approximately when I read everything through their site.

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~ by Molly on November 16, 2009.

One Response to “the books of the thirteenth tale”

  1. I own this book but haven’t read it yet. Perhaps I can coax my book group to read it, although I chose The Sparrow for December and got many dubious looks so I may be losing my credibility.

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