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Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker… Those are the names that resonate immediately in the mind when someone says “gothic literature.” It is not difficult to guess why.
Right now there’s an infinity of paranormal and/or dark stories, a try to bring the gothic genre to the youth, comics with mysterious characters full of magic, sinister movies, but hardly anything has been made from scratch in any of this fields, a new proposal completely original.
Among s many books, it is difficult to know what is new and what is more of what we already know, what is a novelty and what is a classic verging tired. The Thirteenth Tale, the result of five years of work by Diane Setterfield, dances between both sides.
The story opens with Margaret Lea, a woman that’s disappointed of life and in love with old books, which are her only friends, and memories that come to life when reading, reviewing past lives as her personal obsession.
Margaret suddenly receives a letter from Vida Winter, the most successful English writer and one of the most sold and read worldwide, one idolized woman by many readers and publishers, but hated in some way by newspapers, to who never she’s revealed the story of her life before becoming a writer.
However, this letter impacts our protagonist because Miss Winter promises to tell solely to her, but on her own terms: Do not interrupt, do not ask anything, and let her tell all at her own pace, not wanting to overtake it in terms of acts.
Henceforth, she’ll let her know, and in great detail, the lives of the Angelfield twins, the mansion where they live, their family, the servants, and the ghost who lives with everyone, a story of gothic mystery that Vida Winter has kept under the most absolute secrecy.
I will not risk saying anything more because the book’s really worth it, although arguably there are some gaps in the narrative. The main idea, the leitmotif of all and the double story that unfolds between the past and the present is really original, full of beauty and drama.
However, the story becomes quite boring and even linear on more than one occasion. It’s always good to give a background to the secondary characters, to really know where they are from, what they want to do in the reading and why of their actions, but when they’re put before the main story, the real reason for the reading, the reader is misfit.
Continuing with the characters, I say yes, they are very different from each other, but there comes a point where it seems that everyone takes the same form of speaking, acting, thinking, among other things. It seems that many different personalities exhausted the author and she ended up taking an output power, not very noticeable if read carelessly, but evident paying sufficient attention.
As for the gaps I mentioned, they are not very frequent, but I could see two or three of them in key parts of the story, certain gaps I think Setterfield should have taken better care of rather than pay attention to many other capes not very important. It's good some mystery, but those that are in the book are not very favorable.
Margaret and Miss Winter are so potential and different characters from what we’re used to seeing it hurts to see them relegated to a secondary level for almost the entire book, also it happens to the twins, who come and go throughout the narrative. For traditionalists readers, a disaster, for those looking for something new, interesting, and for those who are like me, people in the middle, it’s a bittersweet taste.
The plot’s touched topics are already very repetitive, but an interesting way, however, I don’t think "original" is the right word. Death, inferiority complex, dysfunctional families, mental imbalance, and self-destruction are already used themes, and although The Thirteenth Tale tries to reinvent them, it stays halfway.
The only thing that really stood out was the love for books, as certain scenes and views regarding stories, tales, famous novels, among other things, made the reader think, facing a dilemma and show an underexplored side before. Well there because reinvention isn’t easy to achieve, much less in a first work.Adaptations, and I won’t get tired of saying it, are not always loyal, but in this one in particular SO MANY things changed that it surprised me when comparing both versions.
It all starts with Margaret Lea on her way to meet Miss Winter, and the viewer has no idea what happened before, why did she chose her precisely. Hey simply show a scene with the most essential, as to get away with trouble, and it's over, we started with the actual plot.
Vida Winter is VERY FAR from Diane Setterfield’s original character. Her anguish, fear, loneliness, despair showing in her first scene in the book, it is simply replaced by a falser than a pirated disc arrogance. Vanessa Redgrave's face is very similar to what I imagined for this role, but the performance and changes doesn’t really make justice to the character in the book, especially the color of her eyes, something that impacts Margaret at first. Was it very difficult to buy some contact lenses?
Olivia Colman was another face that struck me. Margaret Lea is not a girl or anything near, but I think they added her years in a very unnecessary way with a high school girl’s attitude. Sure disaster, despite her few scenes of maturity.
Before going further, I think I should talk about the girls, the twins I’ve already mentioned and will keep mentioning. For girls, I was quite surprised by those papers; girls really seemed as described in the book despite the insufferable changes in adaptation. They made me shiver more than, and when it comes to their more teenager, they earned my respect: faithful, original, just how I imagined that as he read.
Emmeline and Adeline are not particularly easy to portray characters, and to be both in charge of Madeleine Power was a very well worked risk. The same happens with their grown up versions. The difference between them is perfectly seen in the moment of the truth.
The photography is a meddle term that bothers me. It was a safe bet to show what was needed and little more, without betting on a different lighting, brighter colors or perhaps plans to give a more interesting scenes look. One point that I think could have resulted strong by risk taking. Bittersweet again.
Music? There’s neither here, or at least I don’t remember a scene full of something different to home-like sounds, those you’re waiting to hear: the house keys, car engines, steps, etc. In this case it was a wise move, because not in vain is a slow film and requires close attention. It would have been nice to include a song or two, but more than one will agree that this result’s quite acceptable.
As for the costumes, it’s another safe bet, and the same changes made to Vida Winter’s character, the colorful costumes and jewelry she usually wears were not seen. It’s rather simple all together, something not very prepared simply to cover the basics, give a simple aesthetic o the entire cast. Sad.
If there’s something positive of this movie so scared of innovation, is the recreation of the stage. The library wasn’t very accurate, but it’s pretty close to the image that the author intended to create in her novel.
The same applies to the Angelfield mansion. It exceeded the image the book created me, it really made me see otherwise the twin and servitude’s house, in addition to their appearance in both the present and the past is exactly as it should be. Had an impeccable job, I'd say.
Are they worth it?
The book, yes, quite yes. It has its details and some missteps, but to be the first work of a writer, I think it's pretty good. Yes, it was slow for me, yes, I doubt I’ll read it again, but to kill time, entertain yourself and start thinking and discussing with a friend, is a very good choice. May it even inspire someone, something I say from experience.
The film, hardly. Doesn’t meet expectations, changes are too stressful, many things were a safe bet and I think, of having opted for a TV series, more faithful and cared of, they would have reached a much better result. It can entertain the one who sees it, it’s a good way to kill time in the absence of much better choices, but you’d neither should be filled with hope.
Remember that, as every week, you have a new chapter in my Wattpad's account. Amelia's story is over, but the end is not what you except, so give it a look and tell me what do you think!
Recuerden que, como todas las semanas, tienen un nuevo capítulo en mi cuenta de Wattpad. La historia de Amelia se terminó, pero el final no es lo que esperan. ¡Denle una mirada y díganme qué piensan!
Greetings and hugs!
¡Un saludo y un abrazo!