Reading is Sexy: The Thirteenth Tale

Dave and I started the holiday weekend with a trip to Half-Price Books — having a 20% off Memorial Day sale — to stock up on entertainment for the weekend and for our upcoming vacation to Playa del Carmen (just 35 days ’til beach time!)

About 2 years ago, I started keeping a nerdy notebook filled with scribbles that lists every book I’ve read. I had ambitious ideas at the beginning to write reviews and notes to myself about each title, but realized that was redundant: I never forget the details I love and loathe about books. Now the notebook pages simply record the year, followed by a list of the books I’ve devoured during it. If I start a book and abandon it because it’s not holding my interest, I draw a line through it. The line of death! My shorthand for “this book sucks.”

In the back of the notebook, I keep a growing list of books I want to read, titles culled from The New York Times book review, hours spent browsing at bookstores, and lists of the output of my favorite serial authors (Daniel Silva, Elizabeth George, Lee Child, Robert Crais) in publication order so I can read them consecutively.

I’ve started a new practice of learning as little about the plot of new books as possible, so I can savor the surprises of the plot as they arise. It’s one of my deepest regrets that I can’t forget I’ve read Jane Eyre so I can re-read the devastating surprise in chapter 26 for the first time. (I won’t ruin it by saying what that surprise is, but if you’re familiar with Jane Eyre, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’re NOT familiar with it, read. it. right. now. Seriously.)

So even though the title The Thirteenth Tale was written in my pointy handwriting in my notebook, I knew nothing about it except that, at some point, I read something somewhere that made me think I would like it. How deliciously irresistible.

The Thirteenth Tale was published in 2006, and I found a sufficiently beat up copy at Half-Price. I like my used books to look well-loved; the more coffee-stained, water-damaged, and crinkled, the better.

1. It’s basically an old-fashioned ghost story. There’s a mysterious old lady in an eerie manor house. A heroine with secrets of her own. And a decades-old mystery that brings the two together.

2. But to dismiss it it as ONLY a ghost story would be a mistake. It’s beautifully-written, sophisticated and elegant without being stuffy, and time disappears every time I open its pages.

3. The heroine Margaret Lea loves books deeply and lists among her favorites several of my favorites (Jane Eyre, The Woman in White). Her affection for books will help you recall your favorites and make you yearn for uninterrupted hours curled up somewhere comfortable with a book in your lap.

I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous.

4. It’s a relentless page-turner. I’m only on page 99 and so far, it’s been gripping, spooky, amusing, and surprisingly moving. I’m hooked.

This is a snippet of the description from Amazon:

Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to Brontë and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller’s daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman’s tale….

I’ll let you know if my early infatuation continues — and you’re welcome to borrow my copy when I’m done… as long as you promise to give it back. I think this might be a book I return again and again.

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  • fivefootmama says:

    I live in Modesto, CA – a town known for George Lucas and Scott Peterson. This past September, a few girls here started the first derby team in Modesto. A mother of two and a side-show freak, I joined up as soon as I heard about it in December. I have been so blessed to be a part of this team, and now as a board member. My MIL bought me Roller Girl for my birthday last week. I’ve devoured it and the sheer joy of those beginnings made me cry. I’m so proud to be on the coattails of women like you.

  • Melicious says:

    Congratulations on your league! Thank you so much for writing — and thank you for continuing the Derby tradition. Love & bruises to you!