21.3.12 | By: Megan Langham

With Words They Hewed My Heart

During these past several months I have been doing a good deal of reading. This, in itself, is not at all remarkable. What is remarkable is that within a very short space of time I met three new, popular, widely-spoken-of books and fell deeply in love with each one. I am not a book snob. I don't despise modern literature just to appear dusty and learned. But it's true that the books which capture my attention and retain my affection were most often written by authors who are dead now. So that is why I was so surprised and pleased when each closing sentence left me with the unmistakable feeling of shivering ecstasy imparted only by a book that has become a boon.

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

This is the book responsible for harrowing my heart with horrors, freezing my blood to ice, and then settling me down beside a cosy homelike hearth-fire to melt into a puddle of conflicting emotion. I felt a strong kinship with Margaret Lea and her quiet bookshop life; even when she was plunged whole-hearted into another life of  deception and secrets and sorrow I understood her. But the enigmatic Vida Winter always felt alien to me, and a strange sort of alien at that. She was a Helen and a Bertha and a Mr. Rochester all rolled into one, and her gothic house of fear and familiarity was like a place I might meet in a dream.

"A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth."
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke

This is the book responsible for taking my hand, pulling me through a mirror into the mist, and refusing to let me return to the world until I had come face to face with a Faerie I never knew. It is a delightful book, a deadly book. Imagine the eccentrities of Dickens, the wit of Austen, the emotion of Keats, and the magic of Tolkien all wrapped up in a dark dream of fantasy wound about with historical detail -- and you will have as apt a description of this unusual tale as you can hope to find in this world or the other.

"I came to them out of mists and rain;
I came to them in dreams at midnight."
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

This is the book responsible for ripping out my heart, dancing on top of it, and then slipping it back into my chest with a kiss and a prayer.   Markus Zusak wields words like weapons: stabbing stolidity with his sentences, piercing through veils with his prose. I dare you to finish the final page unmoved.

But in spite of the pain and Death's constant presence, this is not a morbid story. It is a tale of life contrasted with death, love with cruel apathy, laughter with choking tears ... and in the end, life and love and laughter shine all the brighter against their dark backdrop. Beauty lurks in every line, true and tantalising.  Even Death is splendid.

"A last note from your narrator: I am haunted by humans."

4 missives:

Rhoswen Faerie Wrose said...

I've never read any of those, yet.
My mom has read The Book Thief and loved it!
She also once tried reading The Thirteenth Tale, but stopped because she said there was some morally objectional material. :-/
I'm afraid I've never heard of the other.
I do hope to one day try The Book Thief...though I admit, it's not a priority at the moment.

Joy said...

I tagged you on my blog! http://joy-live4jesus.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/little-fun-tagging.html

Keaghan said...

So did I. :) Oops!

Megan Langham said...

That's three times I've been tagged -- I think I shall have to resign myself to making a Tagged Post now. ;P Thank you, m'dears! This ought to be fun.

Wrosie - I wouldn't say there was anything too objectionable in The Thirteenth Tale, though of course everyone's standards are different, and there's nothing wrong with that. :) I found it a touching and delightful story, myself. But The Book Thief! You MUST make that a priority - you'll be doing yourself the greatest of favours.

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