The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

3.96 (262,600 ratings by Goodreads)
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Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father's antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain's most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise – she doesn't know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter's dozens of novels.

Late one night, while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter's personal story, Margaret begins to read her father's rare copy of Miss Winter's Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter's account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story. In the end, both women have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets. As well as the ghosts that haunt them still.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 144.78 x 208.28 x 33.02mm | 430.91g
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0385662858
  • 9780385662857

Review quote

“Confident, creepy and absorbing.” —Sunday Times (UK)

“Whimsical, moving and consciously nostalgic, Diane Setterfield knows the limits of enchantment, even as she tries to break them.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Graceful storytelling.” - Publishers Weekly
“A gothic novel . . . [that] grabs the reader with its damp, icy fingers and doesn't let go until the last shocking secret has been revealed. . . . Setterfield's first novel is equally suited to a rainy afternoon on the couch or a summer day on the beach.” —Library Journal
“[This] is a book for people who both love books and know the importance of stories… Diane Setterfield works that magic in her book. . . . Setterfield spins her tale with the skill and confidence of a born storyteller. . . . If the reader craves stories, Setterfield’s tale will satisfy their hunger. A solid debut from a writer readers will want to hear more from.” — Edmonton Journal

"Setterfield has crafted an homage to the romantic heroines of du Maurier, Collins and the Brontes ... enchanting Goth for the 21st century."

"Diane Setterfield has created a remarkably compelling debut… Although The Thirteenth Tale has a trance-like feel, the plot is razor-sharp and becomes more complex towards the end; the twists and turns in the final few chapters of this novel demand that the reader pay close attention to every word before being left shaken and surprised by the turn of events…. This is an extraordinary, unusual and atmospheric story with a sense of timelessness about it. It is rare to be able to smell a book as well as read it, but this one is steeped in the aroma of old houses in remote places with strange faded furnishings and little natural light. It will appeal to anybody with a love of literature and a passion for the feel and smell of old books."
–Scotland on Sunday

"The Thirteenth Tale is a cleverly plotted, beautifully written homage to the classic romantic mystery novel… Gothic elements are skilfully re-imagined in a peculiar tale of madness, murder, incest and dark secrets…. It is a remarkable first book, a book about the joy of books, a riveting multi-layered mystery that twists and turns, and weaves a quite magical spell for most of its length."
–The Independent

"A remarkable first novel… a reader’s dream… Only five short chapters into Setterfield’s deft, enthralling narrative, her readers too have been transported… Richly atmospheric and deeply satisfying… Old-fashioned in the best sense, it’s an urgently readable novel that’s nearly impossible to put down."
–Barnes & Noble Recommends
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About Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield is in her early forties. Having spent time in France, she now lives in Harrogate. Her background is an academic one. Her previous publications have been in the field of 19th and 20th century French literature, especially the works of André Gide.
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Rating details

262,600 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 34% (89,519)
4 37% (98,149)
3 21% (55,430)
2 5% (14,389)
1 2% (5,113)
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