Sunday, February 15, 2009

Interesting Read

I didn't vote for The Thirteenth Tale either but found it interesting enough. I am a quick reader in general but this book took me a while. The details about the weather and the way Margaret felt at all times were pretty engrossing. My gut opinion about the book: 'It was interesting enough'. I didn't take to Margaret's character and Vida Winter fascinated me. Perhaps if I could have gone beyond Margaret's character, I'd have enjoyed it better. The following are sections of the book that I found particularly interesting:
  • I liked how Margaret explained her love of books and felt very sorry for her when she found friendships and solace in her father's shop when it should have come from her mother. I found myself getting angry at her mother's melancholy and absent treatment of her daughter. It must have been heartbreaking to hide a birthday and for Mr Lea to still try and give his surviving daughter a chance at normality. Her mother's disregard for her living child was a little too cruel for me to fathom.
  • Margaret's toughness with herself reminded me of Jane Eyre. Perhaps the comparisons were meant to drive this through? Her sister's memory surrounded her with the same comfort that Jane Eyre derived from Helen Burns. Margaret also didn't make any excuses for her life or her situation and seemed to just accept it all and make the best of it.
  • I was impressed with Judith's loyalty when it came to hiding all the ghosts in the home. Maurice was a modern version of John-the-dig to me. He did his work without seeking anything else beyond that. It was fascinating how Judith became so much more welcoming to Margaret when the truth about Emeline came out.
  • Vida Winter was my favorite character. I gravitate towards tough women characters and she was one tough cookie. She was the only one of the three girls who understood the darkness that had given life to them. She was always a survivor. I was particularly impressed with the fact that she remained hidden from everyone and still remained such an active force within the story. I'd love to know how she managed to educate herself and how she came up to become a writer and how she managed to keep Emeline the whole time too.

Based on the questions prompted by Jill about the twin who survived and Terry's guess at the era the book was framed in, this is my take, I think that Emeline survived the fire.

When Via Winter used the analogy of a conveyor belt where someone you know was burning all the known books in the world, she was living through her own experience of seeing Adeline burn the library through. Vida Winter was extremely bold in saying that she'd gladly destroy the person burning the book and Margaret acknowledges her own cowardice in not being able to give voice to her own similar thought. It was obvious that Vida didn't care for Adeline and while her death was tragic, I can see how she wasn't all that sad about it. She made it very clear that she didn't understand how Ameline would let Adeline abuse her and still love her. I cannot imagine Vida Winter being as tender to a dying matron if she wasn't someone she loved so much?

I think that the story about March twins' parents happened in the early nineties and Ameline and Adeline during the twenties. As Jill said in one of the comments, Margaret depended on snail mail a lot and while she took trains to libraries, there was no mention of electronic catalogs of newspapers. Or am I mistaken? I think that she went through stacks of old papers for news of the fire, right? I imagine that she interviewed Vida Winter in the sixties. That would explain the camera with the film and also the fact that Emeline's son has a kitchen that is almost state of the art for a chef.

I balked at the violence of the siblings at first and the way that the girls were completely ignored and their living conditions etc. How do people get to such squalid situations! I found it difficult to move beyond those descriptions at times.

The book was interesting for me but I am not sure I'd like to read it again.


Jill said...

Excellent observation about Vida's reference to burning the books. I totally missed that, and now completely agree that it was Adeline who died in the fire. I also didn't factor in the camera with film references. I returned the book to the library, but if I'm not mistaken, the photos Margaret took were in color. I'm pretty sure of this since she mentioned the effect of the sun hitting the boy's face. While rollable film was development in the late 1880s, colored film wasn't invented until the 1940's, so the time frame has to be somewhere after 1940.

Lenika said...

I was thinking around that time too. And yes, Margaret talked about the little boy and his construction hat and the sun.