Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale made my acquaintance thanks to fellow bookaholic and neighbor Karen, who had read it for her book club. Eerily mysterious, this novel is chock full of vivid descriptions, imagery, and characterization. One such passage, which has nearly convinced me not to donate by body to science and ultimately be cremated, yearns to be written on my tombstone:
People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic. (17)
Furthermore, Setterfield’s skill at painting a picture creates intrigue and resolution in the unlikeliest of places:
She was mid-yawn when something began to happen to her face. First it was a sudden blurring in the center of her forehead, like a blister. Another mark appeared on her cheek, then beneath her eye, on her nose, on her lips. Each new blemish was accompanied by a dull thud, a percussion that grew faster and faster. In a few seconds her entire face, it seemed, had decomposed.
But it was not the work of death. It was only rain. The long-awaited rain. (56)
I could go on, but I do not want to rewrite Setterfield’s entire piece of work in this blog. Instead, in regards to book club, I think a rich cocoa and a weak tea would be nice accompaniments to this discussion. Since much thumbing through the pages will surely ensue, food and utensils would only serve as hindrances and are not needed.