Author Diane Setterfield follows Maragret Lea, a young biographer (usually of people who are long gone) as she takes on her greatest assignment yet: writing the biography of the very ill, but still very much alive, world-famous novelist Vida Winter. Lea stays with Winter in her huge mansion, spending parts of each day listening to Winter tell her life story. Margaret’s main concern? How can she be sure Ms. Winter, someone who has never be forthcoming about her past, is telling the truth? Margaret takes it upon herself to investigate Ms. Winter’s past to prove the truth - and the truth she does find makes for a very interesting story indeed.
I loved this book for many reasons. First, there’s a mystery to it. You know straight away there’s a mystery – a ghost story, even – but you don’t know exactly what until the very end. I’m a pretty good judge of books, TV shows and movies, and can usually call the endings before most others. This book still held surprises for me in the end. Also, I loved the imagery in Setterfield’s writing. She really places the reader in the different settings. I loved the jumps between the past and the present, between Ms. Winter’s story of her life and the secrets Margaret unveils herself and about herself. For me, reading this book felt like I was reading the novels of long ago - it felt like literature, something completely different from the chick lit, mysteries and thrillers you find on so many bookshelves today.