To start off this review: I enjoyed this book.
I tend to like meta-fiction, books about books, and this one isn’t exactly meta-fictional, but it feels like the experience of reading is delightfully layered. I was incredibly aware of the action of reading as I read, and of what exactly she referenced that I hadn’t yet read.
It’s been a long time since I read a book quite like this. I’ve been reading a lot of very thoroughly post-modern books lately, and it was quite refreshing to come up for air with an author that chooses not to employ many forms of post-modernism.
This book is novelty: it is a pleasure, and a story, purely for the sake of the pleasure of storytelling. I would love to read it again, and again, and again, and I feel that each time, I would catch something different – a reference buried in the layers Setterfield so subtly weaves.
As a matter of fact, this book has inspired me to look back on some classics that are currently collecting dust on my shelves. “Jane Eyre,” “The Woman in White,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Sense and Sensibility,” all of these books are mentioned in “The Thirteenth Tale,” and I think that my reading of that book would be greatly enhanced if I had read the works constantly mentioned.
Of course, these are my opinions of the book, and I can see where some may have problems with it. This book is not for the postmodern reader. Or, rather, it is, but it is not for someone expecting postmodernism. I think that in order to enjoy this book, one must enjoy Victorian storytelling. It read, to me, like a Victorian, white Toni Morrison without the deep-seated tension and trauma of slavery.
Ultimately, this book is for those who love reading – especially if they love reading books by authors who wrote before 1940, the great English love affairs and mysteries.
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