Tag Archives: jill tanner

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (unabridged audiobook read by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner; 15.75 hrs on 13 discs): Vida Winter, an author of Agatha Christie-level fame and popularity, is old and ailing and finally ready to tell the truth about her life after fifty years of telling each would-be biographer a different, obviously fabricated version of her childhood. She chooses Margaret Lea, a young woman with painful secrets of her own, to record the tale. Lea becomes entranced with the story, as did I. It is about twins, and ghosts, and madness, and love. The characters are at once repellent and oddly compelling. I would advise a strong stomach for parts, but by and large I absolutely loved this story. The ending was so satisfying I had a goofy grin on my face for quite a bit of the last couple chapters. My only confusion was that I couldn’t figure out what time period it was supposed to take place in. Lea uses pencil and paper to write, and relies on almanacs and handwritten letters to genealogists for her research. But cars and trains and telephones are commonplace items. Winter’s tale, which begins with the birth of her mother, spans nearly a century, but never once is there a single mention of either World War. No matter where you were in England at the time, surely the wars were something that impacted everyone. So that was a bit of a mystery, but quite a small one. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Setterfield’s next novel.

A note on the audio: Both readers were excellent. I listened to Amato Her Fearful Symmetry, which was also about twins and ghosts. Kind of an odd coincidence. (Evidently I also listened to Tanner read Atonement – I thought I recognized her voice!)

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan (unabridged audiobook read by Jill Tanner; 14 hours on 12 discs): I wanted, so desperately, to like this novel. But the fact of the matter is that I found it tremendously tedious. Though the back cover blurb talks of young Briony’s mistaken accusation regarding her cousin’s sexual assault and its horrible consequences, this event does not actually happen until about halfway through the book. The plot is buried in page after page of literary navel-gazing, and the “twist” ending put me off so much that I wondered why I’d wasted all that time getting there. I suspect the movie is tidier, assuming it leaves out such thrilling passages as Briony pondering the possibility of her not being the star of everyone else’s life story while watching her finger bend back and forth. The writing itself was fine – the description quite vivid, the language very, er, literary – but I found the whole thing tiresome and I frankly can’t understand why so many rave about this lengthy piece of rambling blather.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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