Sitting at my desk (own design), trying to write an email, I suddenly felt I could no longer sustain any position other than horizontal.
Colds in high season!
Had to take a break. Doing the bare minimum during my working hours, I spent evenings in bed, with Lemsip. And a book…
Now, I haven’t mentioned yet that for the last 3 years I have participated in book club meetings. Let me explain – about 5 of us meet once a month in the local library (which happens to be the most beautiful building in Waterford) to discuss a book we all agreed to read a month before.
During these last 3 years one of us became a mother, one a grandmother, 2 of us got married and 1 of us got a degree in counseling.
Around Christmas we meet for a drink or go to a restaurant, where literary discussions get even more sidetracked by current affairs and personal musings.
Our choice this month has been The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, the author’s first published book. And this just happened to be a book I picked when shivering in bed.
Have you read it? I was hooked from the very beginning. The great thing about this book is that you turn and turn the pages – and you don’t want to miss a single sentence – but there’s still plenty of reading left til the end! I still haven’t finished, but probably will this evening.
The book has a magnificent atmosphere to it – populated with novels, antiquarian booksellers and libraries; letters and secrets are intertwined with regular meals and tea, you get a bit lost in big houses, multiple gardens – even though the weather is always gloomy – in fact the book’s been described as a gothic novel.
I find the structure wonderfully comforting – it has the beginning, the middle, and – I suppose the ending also – clearly marked.
It’s like this great 19th century novel, only written in 2006, with buses running and photographs being taken.
But best of all is how it transports you into various centuries and places in England, where the author herself comes from. It is a novel about writing a novel, the storytelling in it so powerful that at first I just envied Margaret Lea, the girl commissioned to write a biography of a famous writer her room with a bed and a desk plus the peace and quiet to do the job.
By day three of reading I found myself making a cocoa, Margaret’s favourite drink. And today, feeling almost fine I can’t wait until the evening to grab the book again.
Do you remember the first books you’ve ever read yourself that made you join the library? This novel is pure pleasure of reading as discovered at a tender school age, revisited. A readers dream.
Here’s a link to an interview where Diane Setterfield talks about her circumstances when writing the New York Times No. 1 Bestseller. Just like in the novel, her voice is so precise, if slightly old fashioned, never hesitating or failing to paint the indescribable. She talks about her need for a break from academic life which involved reading French literature for years. No doubt my book club friends – three of whom are teachers – one a lecturer – will be brimming with comments on that!
Reading The Thirteenth Tale