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.
Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Suspense-Gothic Literature
British author Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale is a gothic suspense story that has a classic literature feel to it (kind of like Rebecca or Jane Eyre which is mentioned quite a few times throughout the course of the story) and has almost overnight became a best-selling book.
I finally read The Thirteenth Tale not only because it was the February group read for my Bookcrossing Reading Group but because I've heard so many positive things about it. Besides, it was a story about stories, it couldn't possibly be bad! It more than lived up to my puny expectations! I was hoping I would like it, but I never expected to love it.
One of the things that I liked was how everything in the book had a personality, story, and secret- even the inanimate things like the two main houses-Angelfield and Ms. Winter's home. Angelfield is a beautiful house on the outside (even if it looks like it’s giving you the cold shoulder) but dirty and decrepit on the inside just like all of it's inhabitants except John-the-dig and the Missus. Ms. Winter's home is scarily oppressive but the gardens are beautiful if maze-like in their randomness. Miss Winter herself is pretty much the same. Beautiful, interesting, but still secretive and reclusive.
The characters are unique and contemporary but at the same time, old- fashioned; especially Ms. Vida Winter and Margaret, which is the main reason why it’s hard to pin-point exactly what year the story is set in! I loved the mystery at the center of the book and how I wasn’t quite sure what to believe but I never had the slightest inkling of what was really going on. Which is why when I finished it I really wanted to go back and re-read it again!
The Thirteenth Tale has it’s own official website. Barnes and Noble has two interviews with Diane Setterfield, one audio and one text and the publisher website has special note from the author and recipes.
Interview with Setterfield: