Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mysterious Story Inside a Story

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
Published: 2007
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 406
Genre: Suspense-Gothic Literature

British author Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale is a gothic suspense story t
hat 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:


  1. I've been wanting to read this one for a while, it sounds good. Great review!

  2. I think I have a copy of this somewhere. Thanks for the review, you actually made me want to read it rather than just having it stuffed on a shelf somewhere...

  3. this books surprised me too! I read it last year for Carls Halloween/ gothic read, never thought I'd like it ! But I intend to reread it this year around October for the second time!

  4. Naida & Rhinoa- I really do recommend this one highly! I hope you both have a chance to read it.

    DesLily- I'll re-read it if it gets picked as a group read for my BooksIntoMovies reading group. I've heard it's supposed to be made into a movie soon. I hope I won't be disappointed!

  5. I loved this book so much that I re-read it only a couple months after first reading it, something I never do! I'm glad you enjoyed it, too. I wonder if I click that bookcrossing link, if I'll be able to see your group's discussion. Going to find out now!

  6. P.S. Love your Tinkerbell header!

  7. Dewey- Think you would have to join the group and then use the search through the comments.

  8. Hey, Ladytink, you did it! I knew you could. The new header looks GREAT!

    Your review convinced me that I really should read this one. I have recommended it to a lot of people at the library because I haven't heard anyone say they didn't like it after reading it. And so many people came back to say how much they loved it, and to thank me for recommending it. I'd been thinking about it, but now I see I need to read it soon! I didn't know about the gothic feel - that sold me. :-)

  9. I think that this is one of those books that people either love or hate. I personally enjoyed it when I read it when if first came out. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it too!

  10. I loved it, too! And I didn't know what was happening until the very end, either! :)

  11. Oh, thank you for posting this interview! This was one of my favorite books of last year, and I'm thrilled to be able to see an interview.

  12. Wow you have some great books here that I can't wait to read. We seem to have similiar taste. If you have time come and check out my blog. I'm a new aspiring author. Come and tell me what you want to read about.

    Ahirah Towns

    The new face of Erotic Romance

  13. I have a great book for you to read.

    Koko Brown(published by Ellora's Cave) It is a vampire book and very good. Go check it out. The reviews so far have been really good on it. I hope to interview her later this coming week and find out what makes her tick.

  14. This is one that I am going to have to buy at some point because I loved it so much from the library. I am glad I finally got around to reading it!



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