Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Front cover
I finished reading something very different for me but the photo of the front cover may give you a clue what attracted me when I found this at a book sale.  A novel that must have something to do with books, I was not disappointed.  The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, published in 2006, 406 pages and a very thought provoking Reader's Guide in the Index, for good discussions.   It had been on my To Be Read Shelf, has excellent writing, set in Yorkshire and the moors of England, a tale about life stories, writers, books, twins, ghosts. Some of her phrases, "smooth as a statue on casters", "silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you." and this seemed off to me, "Politeness. Now there's a poor man's virtue if ever there was one. ...One needs no particular talent to be polite. ...being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else." And Page 398, near the very end of the novel, "The truth is heavy enough without the additional weight of the world's scrutiny on his shoulders..."

Briefly, Margaret Lea works in her fathers antiquarian bookshop with a fascination for the biographies of the long-dead that lead her to write about them herself. She receives a letter from a famous author of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, a known recluse.  Miss Winter is elderly, in failing health and finally wants to tell the story of her life, she invites Margaret to travel to her home outside Yorkshire.Here we begin to hear the Gothic tale of the Angelfield family. The book reminds me of the classics Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Each character is prominent and woven through the novel by the writing.    

The opening sentence caught my attention, November is my birth month and so begins this picturesque
Back cover
novel.  "It was November.  Although it was not yet late, the sky was dark when I turned into Laundress Passage  Father had finished for the day, switched off the shop lights and closed the shutters but so I would not come home to darkness he had left on the light over the stairs to the flat.,"  In addition to the quotes above there were so many that I cannot take the time to include all here.  I marked up the book, underlining in pencil so many phrases, so that anyone who buys this may wonder. 


Page 6, ""My gripe is not with lovers of the truth, but with truth herself.  What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story?" so writes Ms Winter to Margaret.   Page 8, "There is something about words.  In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.  Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts.  Inside you they work their magic."   Page 17, "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 ther is an exception to this annihilation.  For in the books they write they continue to exist."    Page 29, "I read old novels.  The reason is simple: I prefer proper endings.  Marriages and deaths, noble sacrifices and miraculous restorations, tragic separations and unhoped for reunions, great falls and dreams fulfilled.  These in my view constitute an ending worth the wait.".    

Because these brutally cold winter days have me staying put in the house, I have time to read.  I am grateful for the habit of reading that came to me very early in life, with being read to and with treasuring my Little Golden Books.  Page 289 has one of my favorite quotes in the novel, "  Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you?  You leave the previous book with ideas and themes--characters even--caught in the fibers of your clothes and when you open the new book they are still with you."     

Grief  on page 289, "  We all have our sorrows and although the exact delineaments, weight and dimensions of grief are different for everyone, the color of grief is common to us all.  "  I never considered the color of grief, what would it be, grey, dreary, tinged with hues?  Another intersting theme in this novel is the story that everyone has and a reference to a weightless story being one that has never been told, never shared, never put to words.  Weightless stories can be a missing part of a puzzle and cause people to wonder about them all their lives. Such weightless stories  are untold and may be presumed better than a heavy load brought from the  shared details of a told story.  I wonder is it better to know or not often.  

I give this book 5 *****.  I understand the author has another book out and likely I will want to read it too.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Another from 2018 D Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Back cover
Read this in July 2018 and set it aside to post here, so it  kept going to the bottom of a pile of things to  write about.  As the New Year starts, I take books up to the library to donate to the bookstore for its sales and there I saw this awaiting. The story intrigued me as described on the back cover, I had not heard of this in history nor in travels.  The edition by Vintage Books, printed April 2018, but copyright  by the author in 2017.  This is a  paperback, 321 pages and many  additional pages of footnotes, sources. There is a map of the Osage Territory  inside the front cover which I found helpful reading about the  movements.  Another unique feature of this book is that each chapter has a title.  Touted as investigative journalism, this narrative is a good mix of history and mystery. 
Page 1  

The Osage tribe, referred to as red millionaires at the time, were the wealthiest per capita in the world in 1923 estimated at $30 Million which would be over $400 million by today's  figures. (Pg 6)  The writing is good and poetic in  some phrases, such as the reference to "juries of crows", page 8, referring to the birds along the telephone wires.  The murders of the Osage Indians are a tale of greed, jealousy, and downright lawless thievery.  There is  a history of the  Pinkertons and the creation of the FBI in 1908 by then President Teddy Roosevelt despite opposition to a national police force.  J Edgar Hoover enters the scene in 1925, pages 111-113 describe the agents as fact gatherers without  power, who all wore dark suits and polished shoes, were unarmed,  and all were Caucasian By 1924 J Edgar would get the job of FBI Director, and hold that position for almost 50 years.   Early in 1917 Tom White one of the last of the frontier lawmen joined the FBI,  he was not yet 40 years old and he  defied orders and packed a six shooter with him on dangerous investigations.  The book flashes between the history of law enforcement, the growth of the FBI and the Osage.  Mollie Burkhart watches as her family and relatives are shot and poisoned.  The murders were so covered up by so many that speculation remains who did what.  Margie Burkhart, the grand daughter of Mollie and Ernest interviewed with the author.  "What is gone is measured because it was what we wonce were.  We gather our past and present into the depths of our being and face tomorrow.  We are still Osage.  We live and we reach old age for our forefathers"
LAST PAGE
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It is an  astounding tale.  A book worth reading, different, 5 stars *****.