Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale (copy)

Don’t you just love the fall season? The weather with its cool crisp winds, clear blue skies, and large harvest moon makes one want to don a sweater and drink spice tea. It also presents the perfect setting for eerie fireside ghost stories.

For the month of October, I plan to book talk some new, classic, and truly ghoulish tales. I chose to read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield as a compliment to this month’s Friday thirteenth—another day in our psyche that also conjures up eerie happenings and bad luck.

Author Setterfield is new to the book world. The Thirteenth Tale is her first book, yet it sits number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. This is an unprecedented accomplishment. For one thing, she is an unknown English author—unheard of even in England. Another thing, she hasn’t sold that many copies in her own native land.

The only English author to land number one on the American list had Robert Redford’s help. In 1996, Nicolas Evans’ book, The Horse Whisper, had a movie deal prior to its publication. So you can see the shock on American publishers’ faces at this moment.

It took Mrs. Setterfield six years to write this gothic tale. She carried ideas around in a box while working as a French teacher. Her husband agreed to live hand-to-mouth until it was written. That was a good choice, since they are bona fide millionaires now.

Main character, Vida Winter, is on her death bed and needs a capable writer to author her biography. Ms. Winter is a writer more popular than John Grisham, Danielle Steel, and James Paterson combined.

The reading public has enjoyed all of Vida Winter’s work but is reminded of her one mistake. She published her first book titled The Thirteen Tales but only included twelve. The scandal forced the recall of all her books. Fifty years later her fans still want to know what the thirteenth tale is.

Margaret Lea has grown up in her father’s antiquarian bookstore which specializes in rare and expensive books. She prefers books to people and even enjoys writing biographies in her spare time. One particular biography about twin brothers catches the eye of Ms. Winter, who request Margaret personally to be her biographer.

Margaret is wary of taking on the request. Ms. Winter has a reputation for making up events rather than telling the truth. In the past 22 interviews alone, she has told unbelievable tales, more elaborate than her books. This leads Margaret and readers to wonder if this gothic story is true.