Sunday, July 15, 2007
Listening to audio version of 'Thirteenth Tale': Grand story and spellbinding performances
By DAN BARNETT
Jill Tanner, born in England and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, plays Vida Winter, a reclusive writer, a modern-day Dickens, in Diane Setterfield's "The Thirteenth Tale."
Published in hardcover ($26 from Atria Books), and scheduled to come out in trade paper in September, this first novel was a featured selection at Barnes and Noble stores across the nation. It's ideal for local reading groups and a great beach read (but more suited to old libraries where "Jane Eyre" jostles with "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes").
When Winter, aging and infirm, invites antiquarian bookseller Margaret Lea to be her biographer, Margaret hears an extraordinary and complex tale of green-eyed twins and families gone awry as Vida narrates what she calls "a ghost story." Margaret Lea is played to perfection by Bianca Amato, and the result is a 16-hour escape into a world where shadows lurk, the mists obscure one's vision, and the very nature of the story keeps the reader guessing.
The unabridged audio version is available direct from Recorded Books (www.recordedbooks.com) as cassettes or CDs or as a download to an iPod or other MP3 device through Audible.com. (Audible's license allows downloading to multiple computers and iPods.)
I couldn't stop listening. The book begins with a quotation from Vida Winter herself: "All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won't be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story."
But is Winter's story the truth? As more and more of her past is revealed, the pieces seem less and less to fit. Who is she? Who was she?
And then, after months of trying to put the picture together, Margaret knew: "I stopped dead in my tracks. For my mind, racing ahead of itself in a momentous act of premonition, had already submitted to this revised version of events. In a single moment of vertiginous, kaleidoscopic bedazzlement, the story Miss Winter had told me unmade and remade itself, in every event identical, in every detail the same -- yet entirely, profoundly different."
The performances are superb and lend gravitas to the unfolding tale. Entranced, I listened to the entire recording over two days, spending hours glued to a chair long after bedtime. The shadows were dispelled, but the emotional impact of the listening experience still lingers. If you're new to audio books on your iPod, start here.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.