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The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

Written by Diane Setterfield

Narrated by Lynn Redgrave and Henshall


The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

Written by Diane Setterfield

Narrated by Lynn Redgrave and Henshall

ratings:
4/5 (414 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Released:
Sep 12, 2006
ISBN:
9780743563833
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny.

All children mythologize their birth. . . . So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's beloved collection of stories, long famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale. The enigmatic Winter has always kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she summons a biographer to tell the truth about her extraordinary life: Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth remains an ever-present pain.

Disinterring the life she meant to bury for good, Vida mesmerizes Margaret with the power of her storytelling. Hers is a tale of gothic strangeness, featuring the Angelfield family -- including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline -- a ghost, a governess, and a devastating fire. Struck by a curious parallel between their stories, Margaret demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them.

The Thirteenth Tale is a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter, and in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.
Released:
Sep 12, 2006
ISBN:
9780743563833
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Diane Setterfield is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale, and a former academic, specializing in twentieth-century French literature, particularly the works of Andre Gide. She lives in Oxford, England.


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What people think about The Thirteenth Tale

4.2
414 ratings / 479 Reviews
What did you think?
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed reading this book and was very engrossed in it up to a certain point, but then it went off the boil somewhat. There are various strands to the story and I still wasn't quite sure what was what at the end so I read some reviews and got it sussed. Until about 75% of the way through I thought it was a 4 or 5-star book, but I just can't give it that now which is a shame. It's difficult to say what left me feeling a little disappointed.
  • (5/5)
    I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, but I actually really really enjoyed. I think it was even more enjoyable because I was completely surprised by how quickly I was drawn into this story and how much I loved it!!The book does start off a bit slow, but after the first couple chapters I was completely sucked in. I am a huge fan of stories that jump between past and present and challenge the reader to figure out how the characters in the present got into the crazy situation they are in given their past. This book is basically a story about stories. I loved the mystery and the way Vida Winters sorted past is revealed with a series of stories. The whole thing was very cleverly done. This is a great book for those who love books, enjoy the concept of story, and enjoy a good mystery.Overall I really loved this book. It was a bit different from what I normally read. I love how masterfully this story was pulled together and how it keeps you guessing right to the very end. I would recommend to those who are just in general fans of the concept of story and a love good mystery.
  • (5/5)
    This was a fantastic book that was a throw back to the writing style of the 19th century. I have read that the author's favorite writer was Charles Dickens, and her writing style certainly mirrors his. This was another book that talks at length about the love of words and reading and I can't seem to get enough of that type of work. This story keeps you guessing and was a page turner that I had a hard time putting down. I would recommend this book to anyone and feel that all will enjoy it.
  • (4/5)
    The author's writing is incredible and yet sometimes I felt that she was stalling in some parts. I would've given it a 5 rating but I thought the story started slow. Sadly, I wasn't engrossed in the story until I reached the middle of the book.
  • (3/5)
    How is this book so popular? My rating would be a solid 'Meh', or 'Glad I didn't pay full price'. I thought I was getting a ghost story, but what Diane Setterfield has actually penned is a derivative potboiler - I would recommend reading Jane Eyre, The Woman In White, The Turn of The Screw, or Rebecca, which have all been thrown in the literary blender by the author to produce a drawn-out mystery. And what was with the 'Jolene' clones ('flaming locks of auburn hair, eyes of emerald green')? Also I HATE first person narrators who are so lacking in personality, and sound so pretentious, that the story would be far better written in tame old third person. I wanted to punch Margaret and her 'devouring' of books. Obviously, this novel worked for a lot of people, but I started speed reading at 50%, just so I could move onto better books.
  • (4/5)
    The Thirteenth Tale is the story of the reclusive and secretive Vida Winter, the world's most popular author, who summons Margaret Lea to write her biography. Margaret is surprised by the request - after all, she's just an amateur biographer who works in her father's bookshop - but she agrees to visit Miss Winter and listen to what she has to say. As the story of Winter's childhood unfolds, Margaret discovers what it is they have in common and why she was chosen to write the biography.The Thirteenth Tale borrows elements of classic novels such as Wuthering Heights, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, and The Turn of the Screw and it felt instantly familiar to me: the Yorkshire moors, twins, mistaken identities, ghosts and governesses all play a part in the story. I'm not saying this book was unoriginal or an exact copy of any other novel - it wasn't - but Diane Setterfield was obviously trying to capture the overall mood of those gothic classics. Not only are the books I just mentioned referred to over and over again in the story, but they are cleverly incorporated into the plot. I can see why The Thirteenth Tale has been so popular because it really is a book for book lovers!Yet despite the familiarity, I didn't guess everything that was going to happen. When the solution to the mystery (or one of the mysteries, as there are a few) was revealed, it surprised me - although the clues had been there all along and I'm sure if I read the book again it would be obvious.One thing that struck me while I was reading this book was that we are never told when the story was supposed to be set. There are no historical references to suggest when the events of the book are taking place. Even Margaret's timeframe, although obviously fairly recent, is still vague. I'm sure this was deliberate and it does help to give the story a timeless feel, but I'm one of those readers who likes to know when a story is set!While I didn't love this book as much as I hoped I would (which I suspect might just be because I've read too many books of this type recently), it was fun, entertaining and very quick to read for a book with over 450 pages. It was also a perfect read for late December - a book to curl up with indoors while it's cold and dark outside.
  • (4/5)
    Reviews have likened this book to Jane Eyre. I kind of get that. But I was reminded of fairy tales like Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland. Well written and I rarely skipped forward in the plot (a bad habit of mine).
  • (5/5)
    I was completely absorbed in this book. When I finished, I went back and re-read parts here and there, because I wanted to savor it. I recognize that it is a gothic tale, and I haven't read enough of them to know whether there are a lot of tropes here for the gothic genre, but the storyline totally held my attention -- kind of a big deal for me these days. The characters were compelling (even though most were not the type I would feel comfortable hanging out with!). I am definitely seeking out Diane Setterfield's other work(s).
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed Setterfield's style. Beautifully written with a story that captures you and holds on until it's revealing end. I will look forward to her next offering.
  • (5/5)
    Rarely do I read a book that consantly makes me stop to think. There was so much in this book to think about, and I don't mean by trying to figure out the mysteries on my own before they were revealed in the story. It would be wrong to start with "this book is about a girl who," because it is about several girls; in fact, it is about five girls: Two ghosts, twins, and an "amputee," as she calls herself. She works in an antiquarian bookstore. Margaret is a biographer and shortly after writing an article on two brothers receives a letter from a well-known and well-liked author, Vida Winter, who wishes that Margaret should write her biography. The truth. The truth from someone who has made up her past in so many different ways, but who now wishes to let it all free. She finds herself piecing together not only the story of a ghost and twins, but between herself and her own ghost. Such truths were translated in the words of this book unconnected to the events in Vida Winter's life. Those were the instances where I had to stop and think. I couldn't continue reading, because they held close to me, pulling at my sleeve, begging me to stop and think about what I had just read. In some cases, they were elaborate plotlines coming together, but I started to think about geneaology, and how we are all just "subplots" in our own lives. The beginning doesn't start with our births, though we often times think of the world in that way; it starts with those before us - mothers, grandmothers, ancestors from times long since passed who started a trade which we now continue today. It doesn't matter the common thread, only that there is one, and that every family is a book. I am merely a chapter.I sometimes like to look at the discussion questions in the back of the book, if there are any. I'm disappointed. They are fine, I suppose, but what I really wanted to think about is that all children mythologize their birth. It is a theme that runs through the novel - one of many - but which struck me as the most interesting. Vida Winter says:I am human. Like all humans, I do not remember my birth. By the time we wake up to ourselves, we are little children, and our advent is something that happened an eternity ago, at the beginning of time. We live like latecomers at the theater; we must catch up as best we can, divining the beginning from the shape of later events. How many times have I gone back to the border of memory and peered into the darkness beyond? But it is not only memories that hover on the border. There are all sorts of phantasmagoria that inhabit that realm. The nightmares of a lonely child. Fairy tales appropriated by a mind hungry for story. The fantasies of an imaginative little girl anxious to explain herself the inexplicable. Whatever story I may have discovered on the frontier of forgetting, I do not pretend to myself that it is the truth. (Page 357)It has made me wonder not only how others mythologize their birth, but how I have in the past. How do I do it now? I've heard stories from my family about how I acted when I was younger, but do I create inner fairy tales to go along with these thoughts of my entrance to this world? And for that matter, what kinds of fairy tales do the characters in my stories create for themselves? Or have I created fairy tales for them, things that couldn't possibly be true but which I've decided to write in because they won't remember it anyway? An interesting concept that provokes much thought.Aside from this, I've been recommending this book since Page 20. It's very well-written and well-received and it somehow instantly became a favorite. No, not "somehow;" it's easy to explain that away. The girl works in a bookshop, just as I do, and she finds the same comforts in books as I do (although her tastes lie in 19th century women's literature, whereas I prefer modern classics). From the beginning, this book felt like home, and at the end, it left a serene uneasiness. I find that books that leave oxymoronic feelings are the most satisfying books to read. I will read this again to find the connections and see what really happened now that I know the truth. But I think I will need to think about it for quite some time before I can do that.
  • (2/5)
    a long story. Kind of good. A bit confussing, and sometimes just to unrealistic for me to get into. About twins and a ghost child. Listened on audio Bianca Amato & Jill Tanner
  • (5/5)
    "Tell me the truth" This is something that has stuck with Vida Winter for many, many years, and now is time to do so.

    Margaret Lea, an amateur biographer, is contacted by Vida Winter, an extremely popular write, because Vida wants to tell her story. After years of telling stories to any reporter that was asking, she has finally chosen to tell the truth. When Margaret arrives, Vida tempts her by promising her a ghost story, one that involves twins, a subject that is resonates deeply with Margaret due to her own past. The story starts from the beginning, that of the lives of Charles and Isabelle (siblings) Angelfield, and then of Isabelle's twin girls. The story is full of secrets and questions and as Vida tells it, Margaret is left to the interpretation of what was really happening.

    I absolutely loved this book. I felt drawn to the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them. With the mystery, there were a few things that I was able to figure out before Margaret did, but there were several things that I didn't catch at all, including the truth of Vida herself. This is something that I really like, when I'm not completely in the dark, but yet when something is unexpected. Definitely loved this book and highly recommend it.
  • (5/5)
    I had read this book when it first came out and loved it, but having a very short memory when it comes to book plots, when I started this reread it was like reading it for the first time. I don't know if that's a good thing, or a VERY scary thing :)
    I enjoyed this book so much, the ghost story, the mystery and the strangeness of it all. I hope that the BBC tv movie will be available in the states very soon!
  • (4/5)
    Loved this story: creepy, intriguing, mysterious, heartwarming and hard to put down.
  • (4/5)
    I completely connected to this narrator and got totally sucked in. It was FANTASTIC.
  • (5/5)
    The thirteenth taleYou know a story's good when you start again at the beginning as soon as you've read the ending.I discovered Diane Setterfield's 'The Thirteenth Tale' at my local Lounge bar book swap one afternoon and was immediately hooked. Why? Look:Opening quotation:'All children mythologise 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.'After that seriously engaging opening I was delighted to realise that this is a story in which books and reading and storytelling and truth are inextricably bound up in the narrative.This sustained me as the narrative-within-a-narrative moved on to focus on a pair of almost mythically awful characters: violent Charlie and manipulative Isabelle.What's it about?Storytelling. Twins. Loneliness.Extremely successful author Vida Winter is dying. Having spent many years spinning various tales to the hacks sent to get her life story, Vida has finally sent for a biographer to tell the truth about her early life.Margaret Lea is astounded to be summoned and dubious about Miss Winter's ability to tell the truth, but the secrets of her own birth cause her to become spellbound by the older woman's story, and she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Angelfield House, formerly home to the March family, and Miss Winter.What secrets are Angelfield and Miss Winter hiding? Margaret is ready to find out.What's it like?Quietly compelling. Atmospheric. Occasionally confusing.Setterfield perfectly conveys Margaret's complete absorption in Miss Winter's story of the very odd twins, Emmeline and Adeline, and encourages our own absorption.Throughout I wondered: how on earth does the uncontrollable Adeline become the girl seen in the mist? Certain incidents confuse; they make no sense in the context of our knowledge, and it is not until Miss Winter finally reveals the complete truth about the fire at Angelfield that the reader can comprehend a story which initially seems insoluble without recourse to ghosts.There's a real Victorian / Edwardian feel about this story, though no dates are specified. Governesses, a full staff dwindling to almost nothing, an unworldly heroine and extensive grounds in a decaying house all evoke a time long past. I'm sure this helps to explain why I enjoyed this so much!Characters are presented in ways that fully reveal them to readers, while they remain oblivious to their true selves. I loved the descriptions of the interactions between the deeply patronising Doctor Maudsley and Hester, the scientifically-minded governess:'She was quite right, of course. He had no idea what book she had got it out of, but she must have read it closely, for she elaborated on the idea very sensibly.'And this:'She had an amusing habit of expressing views of her own with the same measured command as when she was explaining a theory by some authority she had read.'Setterfield perfectly conveys the inbuilt arrogance and superiority of a medical man dealing with a female he perceives as a subordinate...and the governess's tactful and self-effacing manipulation of this "superior" male!Typical quotes:'The separation of twins is no ordinary separation. Imagine surviving an earthquake. When you come to, you find the world unrecognisable. The horizon is in a different place. The sun has changed colour. Nothing remains of the terrain you know. As for you, you are alive. But it's not the same as living.''Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes - characters even - caught in the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you.'Final thoughtsThis is a cleverly constructed tale about the power of story telling and the mystical nature of twinship. I enjoyed reading it, though I was increasingly dubious about the pending solution of the various mystifying elements: I don't believe in ghosts and am not really a fan of ghost stories, so I was worried about the direction this was taking. Suffice it to say, I needn't have been. The final solution makes perfect sense - and reminds us once again that Hester is not infallible!Full of twists, turns, shocks and, erm, illegitimate children, this is compelling storytelling, including what is, quite possibly, the best doctor diagnosis and prescription ever.Recommended.
  • (5/5)
    There was an 'otherness' about this book that was hard to define, from its focus on an unconventional family in a grand old house which initially put me in mind of "Gormenghast", to its seeming determination to operate independently of time. This last point was the most striking thing for me, and since it cropped up in the reading group questions at the end I'm guessing it was deliberate. It takes place partly in the present and partly in the past, and gradually the two threads of the story come together for a dramatic conclusion. The narrator, bookworm and amateur biographer Margaret comes across as faintly fuddy-duddy, and nobody in the "present" thread of the story uses any of the trappings of modern life (mobile phones, internet etc). Likewise, as she goes about researching the life of cantankerous author Vida Winter, a sort of redheaded Barbara Cartland with a mysterious past, I worked out the numbers and estimated that some of the action should be taking place during the war, yet no mention is ever made of it, or indeed of any world events. It could be taking place at any time, and as such I guess it won't age, being as it were, pre-aged.It was a bold task to undertake, being the voice of a highly successful novelist, who is effectively turning her own life story into a compelling tale. But compelling it was. You perhaps need to give it a few chapters, but it does take a hold. The detective work and the occasional creepiness of it are pulled off brilliantly and I galloped through the last hundred pages, desperate to know what happened. A breathtakingly accomplished first novel.
  • (5/5)
    "I was spellbound. There is something about words in expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner."I was definitely taken prisoner by this novel. Diane Setterfield, weaved a story that I could not put down. I was captivated and in awe from start to finish. The story follows Margaret Lea, full time book lover and part time biographer. Vida winter is a best selling author and a recluse. Though her books and stories brought her fame, no one knows anything about Vida. Whenever someone would try to dig out the truth and find bits of her past, she would spin another tale, another story. Vida Winter's life and past remained a mystery. After crying wolf so many times, she was ready to tell her story and so a letter appeared before Margaret.As one digs and hunts for the truth in another's life, you end up confronting your own truth, your own story. For everyone has a story. This novel was written so well, that you get to read the story from different points of view while jumping from past to present, without it being confusing or overwhelming. This story is a family drama involving complex and complicated relationships. This story is a mystery with its secret finally being written. The story is also gothic with it's haunted house and ghosts. It's a story of love and loss and when its all woven together, you get a tale like no other.Without spilling all the juicy details and hidden messages of this wonderful story, I will stop here. The only thing left to say is, The Thirteenth Tale is a book for book lovers, for those who love the written word. A story for those who love to get lost in the pages of a book.
  • (4/5)
    Loved this book!
  • (5/5)
    A delicious read.
  • (5/5)
    A thrilling book.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this story.
  • (5/5)
    Wow, just wow.
  • (5/5)
    A reread for book club. I think I'd written off this book as enjoyable but light, largely plot-driven. This time I notice some wonderful prose and turns of words. Along with the gothic-y plot (which I love), there is some very nice writing. I wish she'd written another.
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book on CD. Unexpected twists and turns in the plot and characters and several sub-plots keep the story interesting. British setting and reader. I'd like to read the book sometime.
  • (3/5)
    Overall a very Gothic tale — not just in the sense of those novels like "Jane Eyre" that at least in part inspired it, but with just a hint of the tradition of the [U.S.:] Southern Gothic.

    The story drew me in and absorbed me. Although I think the author "played fair," I was still caught off-guard by the twist in the story — I can usually suss out a plot better than most.

    I have only two quibbling criticisms of the book. One was that our narrator seems to have been caught in amber before she is contacted by Vida Winter (I keep wanting to say, "DeWinter" — echoes of "Rebecca"?) She seems to have been utterly pinned at the start of the story but did not seem at all distressed about it. Also, she never has it out with her own distant mother. That didn't make much sense, in the context of the rest of the book.

    Also, the storytelling at points felt almost Byzantine. I began some sections clueless as to whether I was inside the Narrator's story or Ms. Winter's.

    Still and all, it succeeds as a novel. I don't think that it really rises to the level of its literary progenitors, but for a modern tale, it's extremely well done.
  • (1/5)
    Sadly, I loathed this book. I found it predictable and formulaic. We read the novel at the book group I belonged to and I was looking forward to the story but I was quite disappointed.
  • (5/5)
    A good book. It came into my possession somehow, and once I started reading it, I couldn't stop until I read it through to the end. I've read reviews that say it is 19th century in feel, and I suppose it is a little Bronte-esque. I hope its author writes another someday.
  • (5/5)
    A good book. It came into my possession somehow, and once I started reading it, I couldn't stop until I read it through to the end. I've read reviews that say it is 19th century in feel, and I suppose it is a little Bronte-esque. I hope its author writes another someday.
  • (4/5)
    A lovely and engrossing tale built from family history and a love of words, and told with a sense of mystery, this is a book to sink into and enjoy. Setterfield tells a wonderful story, full of twists and lovely language. There were many points when I wished I felt more connected to the characters (most of whom felt a bit too convenient to the wishes of the story, and not quite believable), but on the whole, the book was a lovely escape. I should note that most of my fascinations with the book, and what kept me reading, were the stories within the story--the subtext and slighter characters and ambiguities--as opposed to the more central characters, who I didn't find all that engaging. But, regardless, I enjoyed the book more and more as I kept going, and ended up finishing it with quite a bit more satisfaction than I'd expected. On the whole? Something I'd recommend, particularly to lovers of the classics.