The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Diane Setterfield

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  • Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: Paperback | 406 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 211mm x 33mm | 363g
  • Publication date: 1 October 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0743298039
  • ISBN 13: 9780743298032
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 20,524

Product description

Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny. 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.

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Customer reviews

By TeensReadToo 23 Sep 2010 5

This is a fascinating and rich Gothic mystery about a young Englishwoman who is hired to write the biography of a famous, dying author. The author has always kept her past a secret from her millions of fans, and the biographer is about to find out why. The young woman moves into the old author's home in the remote English countryside, and spends the ensuing weeks compiling details of the author's bizarre and disturbing early years. As the dying author tells that one final tale, her biographer finds herself working through some of her own demons. Interestingly, the biographer's demons at times bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the ones she is writing about for her employer.

THE THIRTEENTH TALE is a modern-day story, but it is written in an old-fashioned, Gothic style that takes its time to reveal its many secrets. It includes all the elements of a classic Gothic novel: a crumbling haunted house, English moors, dense fog, and a young heroine who finds herself in a potentially dangerous situation. It is gripping, at times frightening, and always interesting. I was kept guessing about how the story would eventually be resolved, and was pleased by how skillfully the author pulled all of the pieces together.

My biggest complaint about THE THIRTEENTH TALE is that the main character felt somewhat one-dimensional. It is possible, however, that the characterization might have been intentional. The main character has been damaged by her own past, so maybe this was demonstrated by making her seem less-than-complete. In any case, that is a minor complaint for the book because many of the other characters are so well drawn.

This is an excellent book for readers who like a good, unusual mystery. There was even a happy ending for those characters who were capable of enjoying happy endings. Be warned, though, that this novel is written for adults. Its dreaded "adult themes" include (vague, not graphic) references to incest, sex, and children born out of wedlock, as well as (explicit) mental illness. But if you're willing to overlook those issues, this is a great story and a fascinating mystery for older readers.