The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Title:  The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Length:  432 pages

Am I ever going to NOT love a book that I share here?  Quite possibly not, given the history of my “ratings”… anyway…

The Thirteenth Tale is one of those books that I wouldn’t have picked up without it being recommended to me.  It’s hard for me to really say what types of books I gravitate towards anymore, but, honestly, it probably would have taken me a while to stumble across this title on my own.  With that said, I’m EXTREMELY happy that my friend recommended this read.  And I’m also very pleased that I chose this to be my break from my Tudors infatuation right now.

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

And so reads the description on the back cover.  Feral twins?  Ghosts?  Gothic strangeness?  That’s really all that I need to know to automatically be intrigued.  Upon reading even the first few pages, I soon realized that there was going to be much, much more to love about this novel.  The first detail that struck me was the beauty of the language.  Not only does Setterfield use amazing (yet still believable for both the story and characters) vocabulary, but her variance in sentence structure and dialogue are unlike any that I’ve seen recently.  And these are the types of things that excite me.

In addition to telling a compelling, fascinating, and mysterious tale about the odd family living out in Angelfield, Setterfield works in beautiful passages and reflections on the joy of reading.  Our main character and narrator, Margaret Lea, works in her father’s antiquarian bookshop and, as can be expected, loves to read.  As a lifetime book lover and someone who enjoys to write herself, I fully appreciate the difficulty of appropriately capturing the experience of reading in words.  Setterfield makes it look like a breeze.

Now, I just hope that she writes another book very soon!  I hunger for more of her writing.

Have you read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?  Do you have a favorite passage?

Check out The Thirteenth Tale on Amazon.


Filed under Favorites, Fiction, Women Writers

3 responses to “The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

  1. Lynsey

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book! Reading your review makes me want to go back and read it again – maybe a more slowly so I can fully appreciate everything that you did!

  2. I really want to read this book.
    Have you read Shadow of the WInd. It is another brilliant mystery centered around the life of a bookseller. It is one of my favorites books that I’ve ever read.

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