The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield                                  Washington Square Press, October 2007

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself many moons ago, and recently purchased it on my Kindle.

Vida Winter, the most well-known author living, has given hundreds of interviews about her life, but in every one she has recounted a different tale.  Now, as her life is coming to a close, she is ready to reveal her true identity.  Skeletons and all.  She enlists the help of Margaret Lea, an amateur biographer and bibliophile.  Margaret comes to transcribe the truth, the story that colored the pages of Vida’s life.  What she finds are family secrets that haunt the present.  Family lies and deception that cannot be undone.  And a past that must be claimed, if either Margaret or Vida want to move on with their lives.

I read this book a few years ago and could not put it down.  Everyone I knew (and a few people I met in random places) had to hear about The Thirteenth Tale.  So I decided to pick it back up last week and see if it still held that special something.  Let me tell you, it was still fantastic with a capital F.  I think it might have even been better the second time around.  I almost felt like I was visiting an old friend, if that old friend lived in a crumbling home in the English countryside with some crazy family members.  You know, that kind of old friend.

Diane Setterfield draws you into a dark mystery, centering around Vida Winter.  Who is this author?  Why has she taken such elaborate steps to hide her past?  And why, now, is she so intent on telling the truth?  All of these questions swirl around a terrifically haunting ghost story.  The way Ms. Setterfield spins the tale and puts all the pieces together by the end, is nothing short of amazing.  Truly a magical book (and not in a witches and warlocks kind of way) that makes you feel as if you are standing on the edge of Angelfield estate looking in.  You can see the copper-headed twins, Adeline and Emmeline, roaming the grounds in a feral way.  If you look closely, you can see where the home is crumbling faster than the Missus and gardener can put it back together.  And if you really peek, you can see the ghosts of the home longing to tell someone of what once was, of what could have been.

If you belong to a book club this is the perfect read for you.  It is intriguing, full of little surprises that will make you want to pick up the phone and talk.  And isn’t that what makes a book great..feeling a compulsion to share it?  Plus, it is not a new release, so you can pick it up in paperback for a good price.

If you are a somewhat casual reader, this book will motivate you to keep on reading!  It is the kind of read that you will want to stay up late for, but is not an intimidating book.  I found the language very effortless to read.  So, go get your key and unlock the closet door, they are some skeletons waiting just for you.

Happy to share Vida’s secrets,



About Bookmomma

"The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” -Elizabeth Hardwick
This entry was posted in Book Club Picks, Buy This Book Today, Top 10 Lists. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Thirteenth Tale

  1. Jess says:

    Our book club read it last year and we loved it! I hear she has a new book coming out?

    • Book Momma says:

      I hope that she does! She is a very talented writer. I figured that a lot of people had already read this book, but it is so good I wanted to make sure everyone knew : )

  2. Crys says:

    Easily my favorite of all of your book recommendations! Not usually the style of book that I read, but from the moment I started reading, I was hooked!

  3. Ms. B says:

    Great review of a great book!!

  4. I read this one when it was a new release and absolutely hated it. I’m assuming it was just bad timing because every time I read excerpts, I think, “Wow, that’s so lovely and evocative. How could I have possibly not liked the book?”

  5. Pingback: Sunday Summary: 3/6 | bookmomma

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