Half my book order was waiting for me when I got home from work last night and I was wary of getting into either of them right away. I knew the first title would be The Thirteenth Tale given all the buzz, besides which, I wasn't in the mood for the non-fiction that was So Many Books, So Little Time. Given my book funk of late, the pessimist in me was worried that I would be disappointed, the optimist in me was worried I would get so caught up in the mood that I would neglect practicing for my Mandarin class. (I've been a very bad student all week having not opened my textbook at all since class ended last Saturday.)
Can I just say: Wow.
(warning: spoilers ahead)
I started the book last night around 9:30 as the rain fell (after spending a couple hours practicing my vocabulary, of course) and was up until almost 2am reading. I was caught up in the story right away because of the main character, Margaret. Her passion for reading reminded me of my own not so long ago when I used to read through the night because a certain pageturner had captured my imagination. The anecdote about why she never stands when she reads made me laugh out loud: when she was a child, she sat on a wall reading The Water Babies. She was so taken in by the evocative story that she unconsciously relaxed her body completely as if she were weightless in water--only to fall off the wall and knock herself out. "Reading can be dangerous," she deadpans, and this is when I knew that I had found the right book.
I must admit that as I got deeper into the novel, I was a bit scared about how it would end. What if it was completely predictable...I found the incest between Charlie and Isabelle to be a bit trite, but the rest of the story was great.
I was amused by Dr. Clifton's prescription to Margaret after she had fallen ill from a night out in the rain: he asked her if she liked to read books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Sense and Sensibility. His reply when she replied yes inspired a smile: "You are suffering from an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination. Symptoms include fainting, weariness, loss of appetite, low spirits...unlike the heroines of your favourite novels, your constitution has not been weakened by the privations of life in earlier, harsher centuries...You'll survive." And his scribbled prescription? This, too, made me laugh: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course." Ha!
After class and errands about town, I settled in for some more this afternoon. The twist in the plot surprised me as I didn't see it coming...but it made sense in the end...everything mostly tied up in a neat little bow--except that we don't ever really know for sure who survived the fire...
The Thirteenth Tale of the story is revealed...and it struck me immediately how this make-believe book and its stories sounded similar to Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Anyway, it's clear that the reason why this last story was unfinished was because this was the story of the mysterious Miss. Winter. It's brilliant how everything came full circle in the end--the fictional thirteenth tale is revealed just as the truth is finally recorded.
Finally, I loved the ending...how Margaret finishes the tale by taking into consideration the feelings of the reader in wanting to know what happens after the story ends--does everyone live happily ever after? We're left with a teaser of a potential romance and that's the end. Just brilliant!
I'm looking forward to Brick Lane. I suspect it will arrive on Monday since I got an email yesterday to say that it was shipped....I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation already!