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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 collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that 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.

Topics: Debut, Metafiction, England, Suspenseful, Dark, Twins, Family, Ghosts, Secrets, Writers, Writing, Death, Female Friendship, Dysfunctional Family, Gothic, and Female Protagonist

Published: Atria Books on Sep 12, 2006
ISBN: 9781416540533
List price: $10.99
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This book is amazingly written with every last detail described. Every page is a new shock!read more
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solid readread more
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Fabulous Read! read more
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I loved every single second of this book. Wonderfully written. I didn't want it to end. read more
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loved it! perfect Gothic treasure! read more
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A interesting book! though a little dry at the beginning for my taste but I was hooked in the middle of the book!read more
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excellentread more
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A wonderful story recounted by a young biographer, of her own solitary life and that of her subject - a renowned but mysterious writer whose actual past is hard to discern from her gothic novels. A great modern gothic mystery story, beautifully told.I am surprised it is such a bestseller, however - it is too fine a novel to be a "bestseller"!read more
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Really good read. A bit of suspense, drama and family history, along with good character building, all comes together into a great story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.read more
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What a book, I just could not put it down after the first two chapters. This book is for those who like a real suspense, drama, thriller story and do not want to know how the story end until they have gotten to the end of the book.read more
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Great book! Definitely worth the read.read more
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I have mixed feelings about this one. On the whole, I liked it; it reminded me a great deal of A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Of course, any book where a doctor gives a prescription that involves reading Sherlock Holmes is going to have some appeal for me. However, while I enjoyed the central mystery, I found that the narrator’s own “issues” were somewhat ridiculous and given far too much weight in the story. I liked Margaret (and I wanted her bookstore life), but she could have been the guiding spirit without all the hyperbole.read more
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I bought The Thirteenth Tale because I had read in the press that it had sold barely 600 copies in the UK but over 70,000 in the USA, and I was curious about it.From the very first chapter I was totally engrossed in this beautifully written book. The author Diane Setterfield, whose debut novel this is, has written a mesemerising gothic mystery which explores themes of love, loss, and obsession. The book is structured like novels from an earlier time, with a clear beginning middle and end; and yet...the story loops round on itself, twists and turns and comes back to where it began whilst simultaneously carrying the reader forward towards the end. In brief, it is the story of a famous but reclusive writer,Vida Winter, who contacts the writer of the book, a young woman by the name of Margaret Lea, daughter of an antiquarian bookseller, and invites her to visit and start writing Miss Winter's official biography. Miss Winter tells her story of the twins Adeline and Emmeline to Margaret in an episodic fashion and Margaret is not always sure if she is being told the truth about Miss Winter's life, or just more of her fiction.Diane Setterfield pays homage to previous great writers with subtle references to Bronte's Jane Eyre, Collins' The Woman in White, Du Maurier's Rebecca, and James' Turn of the Screw all of which have echoes in this book. Above all for me, the author articulates what it means to be an avid reader in words that exactly mirror my own experience and feelings:" I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books."With this book, Diane Setterfield has given me back some of that childhood lost pleasure.read more
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This was a great story from the first page to the last. Not sure what other reviewers didn't like about the beginning chapters, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down!read more
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“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield was a book that I saw on a book store shelf when on vacation and immediately purchased it. It is hard to believe that this was a debut novel. I loved the cover and then loved the story even more. I had recently read “ The Turn of the Screw” and “Shadow of the Wind” and both of these seemed similar in format. The Thirteenth Tale was my favorite of all three and I enjoyed them all. The main character Margaret Lea, whose relationship with her mother was distant and cold and thus was primarily raised by her father in his antiquarian bookshop which she loved. She was contacted by hand written letter and hired to write the story of Vida Winter, a very ill and elderly woman who wanted her family story told before it is too late. Margaret reluctantly agreed to the assignment and as she wrote the story about the Angelfield family, there emerged the story of a special and strange relationship between twins, whose identities and personalities were complex and intertwined. Fire, violence, incest and the complexities of family relationships were all told in intense detail. In the confusion and intertwining of the stories, many too implausible, dark or strange to believe, Margaret was charged with the writing a tale that other biographers were not able to tell as the lies that Vida told these other writers did not allow the true telling of the story. In the journey of the writing of the family, Margaret also confronted her own personal and family demons. This is a dark gothic story of love and terror and a delightful read that I would recommend to all lovers of mystery and historical fiction .read more
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Anxiously waiting for Diane Setterfield to write another book!read more
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The Thirteenth Tale started a little slowly, but once it got going I could not put it down. It’s full of twists and intrigue; great settings, fabulous characterisation, exceptional plot and the pace was good after the first couple of chapters. It's been compared to gothic ghost stoies, Jane Eyre and Turn of the Screw, but I don't think these are helpful comparisons, it needs to be read and enjoyed for it's own sake. Deserves more than a four, but not quite a five star rating – but I’m feeling generous today! Again, looking at other reviews, it seems to be a book to love or hate, and I'm firmly in the "love-it" camp.read more
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I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by several of my library patrons and when I finally sat down to read it, the author's lyrical style just sucked me right in. You want to savor The Thirteenth Tale, but devour it at the same time. The plot unfolds rather than races, and the ending is logical but not guessable. A mystery with a literary slant, folks fond of Carol Goodman will enjoy The Thirteenth Tale.read more
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This was a creepy story and, although somewhat well-written, I did not enjoy reading it. The ending was sappy. All characters, although richly described, were not compelling nor believable.read more
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This book tells you early on what it's going to be: it's gothic, it has a beginning a middle and a definite end that won't leave any dangling strings. It was this ending I enjoyed more than any other part of the book. The story opens with Margaret Lea, the shy daughter of a bookseller, accepting a request to write the biography of reclusive writer Vida Winter. Most of the middle of the book is taken up by Vida's very, very gothic lifestory, which involves a governess, unmanageable twins, a possible ghost and a decaying mansion in the English countryside. Although this section read fairly quickly, none of the characters captured my interest because story is so very far-fetched. The ending, however, was a real surprise and Setterfield plays it fair -- the clues leading up to it are present almost from the beginning of Ms. Winter's narrative. So, while I found most of the book average, I did find the wrapped-up end logical, surprising and highly satisfying. I'd recommend this book if you enjoy high drama and heavy plot, but it's not something to seek out if you prefer realistic characters in believable situations.read more
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Haven't listened to a book quite this bad for many years. Had I not been a "captive audience" on a long car trip, I would've quit. But the drive let me give the book every opportunity to improve. It didn't.read more
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I came to The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, with high expectations. I’d recently finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón—a book I enthusiastically reviewed here—and I’d heard from a number of trusted sources that this book was similar in tone, and equally as good. In addition, it was the next selection on my book club list. How could I miss?I started it on a miserable February morning, shut inside with my cat on my lap—the perfect setting, I thought, to do homage to a contemporary Gothic. The book quickly drew me into another world, all the sights and sounds of my real world fell away, and I was utterly lost in the story—keenly feeling, seeing, hearing and sensing this other strange bookish mysterious world. I was totally entranced by the first one-third of the novel—fully convinced I was reading a magnificent four- or five-star contemporary Gothic revival. In particular, I was in awed by beautiful passages of prose that pulled me briefly away from the story to savor their artful construction. But the further I got into the book, the more dissatisfied I became. But by the end, I was disappointed—the story just did not measure up to its early promise. Ultimately, the story became absurd, unbelievable, and uninteresting. When I turned the final page, I felt I’d wasted my time…that I would have been better off spending my hours reading another book, perhaps rereading a favorite authentic 18th- or 19th-century Gothic classic. I moderately recommend this book because the writing is intoxicating—the other world is described with such vivid richness that the reader lives within the pages, seeing, hearing, and feeling what goes on there. Dianne Setterfield has definitely snagged my attention, and I look forward eagerly to reading her next book. She is an author with undeniable skill and artistry—I just hope she puts that mastery to use on a novel with greater believability, purpose and meaning.read more
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Smartly written, Setterfield's novel explores the depths of family relationships, particularily the bond between twins, in the guise of a story within a story.Margaret Lea lives a solitary life and counts as her only friends the long-dead, unappreciated authors of whom she writes biographies. Her life is books, enabled by being the daughter of an antique book seller and living above their store. Her relationship with her mother is strained since Margaret is a constant reminder of the conjoined twin who died after the two were seperated. Margaret's isolation and lonliness caused by the loss of a twin she hardly knew sends her emotionally deep into her current assignment as biographer of the world-reknowned author Vida Winter.Known for her secrets, the elderly Ms. Winter feels ready to tell her story once her death is near. The story she tells is a suspenseful mystery concerning two wild twins, the dysfunctional Angelfield family, a meddling governess, ghosts, and mistaken identity. Just as Ms. Winter's story keeps Margaret riveted, so the reader is captured by Setterfield's characters.My only criticism of the novel is the possibility of most of Hester's diary being extraneous, since everything included in the first part of the diary is already known to readers. The second half, however, is when new and interesting information come to light.But the rest of the novel flows beautifully, and the author really knows how to put together a sentence in all its gothic glory. From the description of the house that looks like it's giving you the cold shoulder, to the depth of the green eyes that are the trademark of the Angelfield family, no word seems to be wasted.Gothic bibliophiles will appreciate the obvious references to Jane Eyre and The Woman in White. This truly is a book lover's book.read more
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"A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story."I've just finished The Thirteenth Tale and really enjoyed it.It contained a lot of the elements I enjoy, it was a story about stories, a book about books, it was timeless and well written, engaging, suspenseful, gothic and a little creepy. It dealt with siblings and twins, familial bonds and dark family secrets. There were ghosts and skeletons, literally. References to classic literature, medical studies, knitting, gardening, fanciful imagination's. Pretty much hit all my buttons in one.It is the story of Vida Winter and her desire to have her true life story recorded before she dies. Until now Ms Winters story has been a patchwork of lies and fictions that suited and amused her. For as many biographies on her life that exist so do as many stories."I've nothing against people who love truth. Apart from the fact that they make dull companions."Vida Winter chooses Margaret Lea, a biographer of the dead for the task after reading a paper she wrote on a couple of brothers. Margaret lives above an antique book shop filled with stories of the long since deceased and this is where she feels at home in spirit as well as in body. She has never read any of Vida Winters modern books despite the fact she is lauded as one of the most prolific and well read authors in the UK. To familiarise herself with her works before she decides to accept the task of recording Ms Winters story she takes a rare book from her fathers collection called Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, the book hooks her in but she is disconcerted to discover the book only contains twelve tales. which is also what makes this edition so rare. The Thirteenth Tale was never included in the original so it was recalled and renamed, however to the public the Thirteenth Tale, much like Vida Winter herself still holds a strong fascination and curiosity.Margaret agrees to write the biography and soon falls under the spell of the story, as do we the reader. Vida's story is a dark tale of mental illness, abandonment, siblings, twins, sisters, lust, ghosts and murder. The more Margaret is drawn into it the more her own dark secrets and tragedies come to the surface and both Margaret and Vidas stories contain threads and elements that weave them both together. One story sitting on top of another.The writing is beautiful, the themes although dark are not graphic or abhorrent, much is alluded too but the picture it draws in the mind is very clear. The book is full of quote worthy quips and set in a timeless era where one is left wondering if you are reading classic literature set in modern day or modern literature about a time gone by."Politeness. Now there's a poor man's virtue if ever there was one. What's so admirable about inoffensiveness, I should like to know. After all, it's easily achieved. One needs no particular talent to be polite. On the contrary, being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else. People with ambition don't give a damn what other people think about them."read more
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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield proves to be as much an experience as it is an engaging work. Setterfield’s book does for the reader exactly what a good book does for the novel’s protagonist, Margaret Lea; The Thirteenth Tale recalls the wonderfully transformative experience that reading provides during childhood. The story in and of itself is creative and it even earns the distinction of being page-turning. It falls short, however, of literary excellence but certainly deserves a read. Setterfield injects into her tale the wonderment that compels so many children to pick up a book because it gives incentive to keep reading and to uncover the mystery. Her story, while at times overstated and melodramatic, makes the reader want to keep reading and to hear the end of Vida Winter’s story. This energy is what makes The Thirteenth Tale a worthwhile novel. The characters are not exceptionally memorable but the plot ensnares the reader, offering teasing little endings to each chapter. For those who are looking for a book that works to keep their attention, Setterfield has certainly delivered. Equally as memorable, especially for nineteenth century British literature buffs, are the numerous references and allusions to great works such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Setterfield does run the risk of seeming a bit of an academic snob with her many mentions of works, but for those who have missed a good Gilbert and Gubar-centered conversation of the literary function of the madwoman will not mind the in-your-face usage of a literary classic.read more
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This is a hard one to rate. The story is very dark and twisty, but the writing is beautiful. I can overlook a lot for beautiful writing. It had a very eerie, haunting feeling through the whole thing.read more
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Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale is a darkly rich, many layered read that drew me into it’s pages and held me there while I read of crumbling mansions, feral twins, ghosts and old books. Reading this book became like peeling the layers of an onion. Intertwining tales, distinctly drawn characters, strange revelations all building to a rewarding climax. Mystery after mystery was laid before us, clues were scattered through the pages, and finally all was revealed. The author gave many nods of approval to some of the great classics, pieces of Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Wuthering Heights were all there to be discovered.This is a book that I can see wanting to re-read in the future. Preferably on a stormy night while curled up under a blanket in front of a warm fire. By far the most atmospheric book I have read this year, I truly was carried off to a different time and place every time I picked it up.I would highly recommend this book, especially to anyone with a love of the great gothic romantic tales of the past.read more
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Close to death, a writer famous for inventing many pasts, finally decides to tell her real story to a lonely biographer. The twists are rather tame but it's compelling reading nonetheless.read more
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The best book of 2007 so far. A dark and twisted tale of mental illness, books, twins, and murder. The twists at the end leave the heart racing and the eyes tearing.read more
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LOVED this on audio. I don't think I would have be as entranced with the story if I had read the book. It was a facinating, intriguing story that completely surprised me in the end. Only problem I had with it was Margaret's obsession with her dead twin sister she never knew. It seemed a little crazy. But maybe that was just me.read more
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Reviews

This book is amazingly written with every last detail described. Every page is a new shock!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
solid read
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fabulous Read!
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I loved every single second of this book. Wonderfully written. I didn't want it to end.
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loved it! perfect Gothic treasure!
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A interesting book! though a little dry at the beginning for my taste but I was hooked in the middle of the book!
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excellent
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A wonderful story recounted by a young biographer, of her own solitary life and that of her subject - a renowned but mysterious writer whose actual past is hard to discern from her gothic novels. A great modern gothic mystery story, beautifully told.I am surprised it is such a bestseller, however - it is too fine a novel to be a "bestseller"!
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Really good read. A bit of suspense, drama and family history, along with good character building, all comes together into a great story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
What a book, I just could not put it down after the first two chapters. This book is for those who like a real suspense, drama, thriller story and do not want to know how the story end until they have gotten to the end of the book.
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Great book! Definitely worth the read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the whole, I liked it; it reminded me a great deal of A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Of course, any book where a doctor gives a prescription that involves reading Sherlock Holmes is going to have some appeal for me. However, while I enjoyed the central mystery, I found that the narrator’s own “issues” were somewhat ridiculous and given far too much weight in the story. I liked Margaret (and I wanted her bookstore life), but she could have been the guiding spirit without all the hyperbole.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I bought The Thirteenth Tale because I had read in the press that it had sold barely 600 copies in the UK but over 70,000 in the USA, and I was curious about it.From the very first chapter I was totally engrossed in this beautifully written book. The author Diane Setterfield, whose debut novel this is, has written a mesemerising gothic mystery which explores themes of love, loss, and obsession. The book is structured like novels from an earlier time, with a clear beginning middle and end; and yet...the story loops round on itself, twists and turns and comes back to where it began whilst simultaneously carrying the reader forward towards the end. In brief, it is the story of a famous but reclusive writer,Vida Winter, who contacts the writer of the book, a young woman by the name of Margaret Lea, daughter of an antiquarian bookseller, and invites her to visit and start writing Miss Winter's official biography. Miss Winter tells her story of the twins Adeline and Emmeline to Margaret in an episodic fashion and Margaret is not always sure if she is being told the truth about Miss Winter's life, or just more of her fiction.Diane Setterfield pays homage to previous great writers with subtle references to Bronte's Jane Eyre, Collins' The Woman in White, Du Maurier's Rebecca, and James' Turn of the Screw all of which have echoes in this book. Above all for me, the author articulates what it means to be an avid reader in words that exactly mirror my own experience and feelings:" I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books."With this book, Diane Setterfield has given me back some of that childhood lost pleasure.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was a great story from the first page to the last. Not sure what other reviewers didn't like about the beginning chapters, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down!
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“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield was a book that I saw on a book store shelf when on vacation and immediately purchased it. It is hard to believe that this was a debut novel. I loved the cover and then loved the story even more. I had recently read “ The Turn of the Screw” and “Shadow of the Wind” and both of these seemed similar in format. The Thirteenth Tale was my favorite of all three and I enjoyed them all. The main character Margaret Lea, whose relationship with her mother was distant and cold and thus was primarily raised by her father in his antiquarian bookshop which she loved. She was contacted by hand written letter and hired to write the story of Vida Winter, a very ill and elderly woman who wanted her family story told before it is too late. Margaret reluctantly agreed to the assignment and as she wrote the story about the Angelfield family, there emerged the story of a special and strange relationship between twins, whose identities and personalities were complex and intertwined. Fire, violence, incest and the complexities of family relationships were all told in intense detail. In the confusion and intertwining of the stories, many too implausible, dark or strange to believe, Margaret was charged with the writing a tale that other biographers were not able to tell as the lies that Vida told these other writers did not allow the true telling of the story. In the journey of the writing of the family, Margaret also confronted her own personal and family demons. This is a dark gothic story of love and terror and a delightful read that I would recommend to all lovers of mystery and historical fiction .
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Anxiously waiting for Diane Setterfield to write another book!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Thirteenth Tale started a little slowly, but once it got going I could not put it down. It’s full of twists and intrigue; great settings, fabulous characterisation, exceptional plot and the pace was good after the first couple of chapters. It's been compared to gothic ghost stoies, Jane Eyre and Turn of the Screw, but I don't think these are helpful comparisons, it needs to be read and enjoyed for it's own sake. Deserves more than a four, but not quite a five star rating – but I’m feeling generous today! Again, looking at other reviews, it seems to be a book to love or hate, and I'm firmly in the "love-it" camp.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by several of my library patrons and when I finally sat down to read it, the author's lyrical style just sucked me right in. You want to savor The Thirteenth Tale, but devour it at the same time. The plot unfolds rather than races, and the ending is logical but not guessable. A mystery with a literary slant, folks fond of Carol Goodman will enjoy The Thirteenth Tale.
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This was a creepy story and, although somewhat well-written, I did not enjoy reading it. The ending was sappy. All characters, although richly described, were not compelling nor believable.
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This book tells you early on what it's going to be: it's gothic, it has a beginning a middle and a definite end that won't leave any dangling strings. It was this ending I enjoyed more than any other part of the book. The story opens with Margaret Lea, the shy daughter of a bookseller, accepting a request to write the biography of reclusive writer Vida Winter. Most of the middle of the book is taken up by Vida's very, very gothic lifestory, which involves a governess, unmanageable twins, a possible ghost and a decaying mansion in the English countryside. Although this section read fairly quickly, none of the characters captured my interest because story is so very far-fetched. The ending, however, was a real surprise and Setterfield plays it fair -- the clues leading up to it are present almost from the beginning of Ms. Winter's narrative. So, while I found most of the book average, I did find the wrapped-up end logical, surprising and highly satisfying. I'd recommend this book if you enjoy high drama and heavy plot, but it's not something to seek out if you prefer realistic characters in believable situations.
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Haven't listened to a book quite this bad for many years. Had I not been a "captive audience" on a long car trip, I would've quit. But the drive let me give the book every opportunity to improve. It didn't.
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I came to The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, with high expectations. I’d recently finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón—a book I enthusiastically reviewed here—and I’d heard from a number of trusted sources that this book was similar in tone, and equally as good. In addition, it was the next selection on my book club list. How could I miss?I started it on a miserable February morning, shut inside with my cat on my lap—the perfect setting, I thought, to do homage to a contemporary Gothic. The book quickly drew me into another world, all the sights and sounds of my real world fell away, and I was utterly lost in the story—keenly feeling, seeing, hearing and sensing this other strange bookish mysterious world. I was totally entranced by the first one-third of the novel—fully convinced I was reading a magnificent four- or five-star contemporary Gothic revival. In particular, I was in awed by beautiful passages of prose that pulled me briefly away from the story to savor their artful construction. But the further I got into the book, the more dissatisfied I became. But by the end, I was disappointed—the story just did not measure up to its early promise. Ultimately, the story became absurd, unbelievable, and uninteresting. When I turned the final page, I felt I’d wasted my time…that I would have been better off spending my hours reading another book, perhaps rereading a favorite authentic 18th- or 19th-century Gothic classic. I moderately recommend this book because the writing is intoxicating—the other world is described with such vivid richness that the reader lives within the pages, seeing, hearing, and feeling what goes on there. Dianne Setterfield has definitely snagged my attention, and I look forward eagerly to reading her next book. She is an author with undeniable skill and artistry—I just hope she puts that mastery to use on a novel with greater believability, purpose and meaning.
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Smartly written, Setterfield's novel explores the depths of family relationships, particularily the bond between twins, in the guise of a story within a story.Margaret Lea lives a solitary life and counts as her only friends the long-dead, unappreciated authors of whom she writes biographies. Her life is books, enabled by being the daughter of an antique book seller and living above their store. Her relationship with her mother is strained since Margaret is a constant reminder of the conjoined twin who died after the two were seperated. Margaret's isolation and lonliness caused by the loss of a twin she hardly knew sends her emotionally deep into her current assignment as biographer of the world-reknowned author Vida Winter.Known for her secrets, the elderly Ms. Winter feels ready to tell her story once her death is near. The story she tells is a suspenseful mystery concerning two wild twins, the dysfunctional Angelfield family, a meddling governess, ghosts, and mistaken identity. Just as Ms. Winter's story keeps Margaret riveted, so the reader is captured by Setterfield's characters.My only criticism of the novel is the possibility of most of Hester's diary being extraneous, since everything included in the first part of the diary is already known to readers. The second half, however, is when new and interesting information come to light.But the rest of the novel flows beautifully, and the author really knows how to put together a sentence in all its gothic glory. From the description of the house that looks like it's giving you the cold shoulder, to the depth of the green eyes that are the trademark of the Angelfield family, no word seems to be wasted.Gothic bibliophiles will appreciate the obvious references to Jane Eyre and The Woman in White. This truly is a book lover's book.
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"A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story."I've just finished The Thirteenth Tale and really enjoyed it.It contained a lot of the elements I enjoy, it was a story about stories, a book about books, it was timeless and well written, engaging, suspenseful, gothic and a little creepy. It dealt with siblings and twins, familial bonds and dark family secrets. There were ghosts and skeletons, literally. References to classic literature, medical studies, knitting, gardening, fanciful imagination's. Pretty much hit all my buttons in one.It is the story of Vida Winter and her desire to have her true life story recorded before she dies. Until now Ms Winters story has been a patchwork of lies and fictions that suited and amused her. For as many biographies on her life that exist so do as many stories."I've nothing against people who love truth. Apart from the fact that they make dull companions."Vida Winter chooses Margaret Lea, a biographer of the dead for the task after reading a paper she wrote on a couple of brothers. Margaret lives above an antique book shop filled with stories of the long since deceased and this is where she feels at home in spirit as well as in body. She has never read any of Vida Winters modern books despite the fact she is lauded as one of the most prolific and well read authors in the UK. To familiarise herself with her works before she decides to accept the task of recording Ms Winters story she takes a rare book from her fathers collection called Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, the book hooks her in but she is disconcerted to discover the book only contains twelve tales. which is also what makes this edition so rare. The Thirteenth Tale was never included in the original so it was recalled and renamed, however to the public the Thirteenth Tale, much like Vida Winter herself still holds a strong fascination and curiosity.Margaret agrees to write the biography and soon falls under the spell of the story, as do we the reader. Vida's story is a dark tale of mental illness, abandonment, siblings, twins, sisters, lust, ghosts and murder. The more Margaret is drawn into it the more her own dark secrets and tragedies come to the surface and both Margaret and Vidas stories contain threads and elements that weave them both together. One story sitting on top of another.The writing is beautiful, the themes although dark are not graphic or abhorrent, much is alluded too but the picture it draws in the mind is very clear. The book is full of quote worthy quips and set in a timeless era where one is left wondering if you are reading classic literature set in modern day or modern literature about a time gone by."Politeness. Now there's a poor man's virtue if ever there was one. What's so admirable about inoffensiveness, I should like to know. After all, it's easily achieved. One needs no particular talent to be polite. On the contrary, being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else. People with ambition don't give a damn what other people think about them."
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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield proves to be as much an experience as it is an engaging work. Setterfield’s book does for the reader exactly what a good book does for the novel’s protagonist, Margaret Lea; The Thirteenth Tale recalls the wonderfully transformative experience that reading provides during childhood. The story in and of itself is creative and it even earns the distinction of being page-turning. It falls short, however, of literary excellence but certainly deserves a read. Setterfield injects into her tale the wonderment that compels so many children to pick up a book because it gives incentive to keep reading and to uncover the mystery. Her story, while at times overstated and melodramatic, makes the reader want to keep reading and to hear the end of Vida Winter’s story. This energy is what makes The Thirteenth Tale a worthwhile novel. The characters are not exceptionally memorable but the plot ensnares the reader, offering teasing little endings to each chapter. For those who are looking for a book that works to keep their attention, Setterfield has certainly delivered. Equally as memorable, especially for nineteenth century British literature buffs, are the numerous references and allusions to great works such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Setterfield does run the risk of seeming a bit of an academic snob with her many mentions of works, but for those who have missed a good Gilbert and Gubar-centered conversation of the literary function of the madwoman will not mind the in-your-face usage of a literary classic.
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This is a hard one to rate. The story is very dark and twisty, but the writing is beautiful. I can overlook a lot for beautiful writing. It had a very eerie, haunting feeling through the whole thing.
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Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale is a darkly rich, many layered read that drew me into it’s pages and held me there while I read of crumbling mansions, feral twins, ghosts and old books. Reading this book became like peeling the layers of an onion. Intertwining tales, distinctly drawn characters, strange revelations all building to a rewarding climax. Mystery after mystery was laid before us, clues were scattered through the pages, and finally all was revealed. The author gave many nods of approval to some of the great classics, pieces of Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Wuthering Heights were all there to be discovered.This is a book that I can see wanting to re-read in the future. Preferably on a stormy night while curled up under a blanket in front of a warm fire. By far the most atmospheric book I have read this year, I truly was carried off to a different time and place every time I picked it up.I would highly recommend this book, especially to anyone with a love of the great gothic romantic tales of the past.
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Close to death, a writer famous for inventing many pasts, finally decides to tell her real story to a lonely biographer. The twists are rather tame but it's compelling reading nonetheless.
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The best book of 2007 so far. A dark and twisted tale of mental illness, books, twins, and murder. The twists at the end leave the heart racing and the eyes tearing.
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LOVED this on audio. I don't think I would have be as entranced with the story if I had read the book. It was a facinating, intriguing story that completely surprised me in the end. Only problem I had with it was Margaret's obsession with her dead twin sister she never knew. It seemed a little crazy. But maybe that was just me.
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