The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

ThirteenthtaleI read this quite a while ago, and it’s one of the few novels I would consider reading again. The Thirteenth Tale was on the New York Times best seller list and for a debut novel I found it to be quite impressive.

The book is about an unknown biographer Margaret Lea that works in her father’s antiquarian bookshop and from time to time write biographies about well known authors (preferably the ones that’s already deceased). However one day she receives a handwritten letter from a very well known novelist called Vida Winter requesting her to write her biography. This however makes Margaret a bit nervous because aside from some articles, she has never published the biographies she has written. She also have never read any of Miss Winter’s novels before, although Vida is the country’s most well-loved authors…

Upon thinking of whether she should accept the request she decides to read some of Miss Winter’s novels and find herself captivated by her stories. However one of her novels called the thirteenth tale contains only a collection of 12 stories and this has got Margaret thinking, “where is the thirteenth tale?” and she decides to accept Miss Winter’s request to write her biography.

After refusing to tell anyone the truth about her life, Vida Winter who now suffers from a terminal illness shares her life story with Margaret who becomes deeply immersed in Miss Winter’s history. Miss Winter unveils dark family secret and mystery that has been kept a secret for over 50 years, which Margaret records and becomes intrigued by Miss Winter’s troubling and disturbing life story. In the end, both of them during their time together have to confront their past and the ghosts that haunt their life.

I don’t want to give too much away about the book, but this story has kept me reading and reading. It really is an easy read and I’m sure that anyone who picks up the book that enjoys intriguing stories about people, their ghosts and dark family secrets will enjoy reading it. It’s a “curl up in bed” story. This novel was full of mystery and yet, somehow also heartbreaking.

Have you read this one? If so, what did you think of it?

Rating: ★★★★

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  • I loved this book also. Do you know if she has written anything else?

    • I’m glad.
      I don’t know of any other books she’s written and I really hope that she does because I assume her writing will just get better and better. I commented on someone else’s post about this novel a few months ago and that person told me she will be releasing a novel “in future”. I am not sure though. Lets find out… 🙂

    • She will have another book out in October, per Alex’s comment below 🙂

    • It’s available on Netgalley, I just got my copy. You might want to pick it up too, if you are curious 🙂

  • I’ve actually have never heard of this book (sometimes I feel like I live under a rock), but it does sound intriguing. Dark family secrets are always fun to read about, and I’m curious about the character of Vida Winter. Great review!

    • Thanks.
      Don’t worry, I also only found out about it when I browsed recommendations on Goodreads and googling “similar books like Rebecca by Du Maurier” 🙂

      If you like dark family secrets, you should read Kate Morton’s first 2 novels: The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton. I haven’t read her others so I cant recommend them yet, but I enjoyed those two. They were both mysteries – and easy reads.

  • I’m so glad that you liked it! It’s on my 2013 TBR Challenge list and I need to get to it soon.

    • I hope you will enjoy it when you do read it, Allison.

  • I haven’t read this one but I’ve heard really good things.It says a lot that you’d re-read this!

    • You should consider adding it to your TBR list, its really an easy and enjoyable read.
      Over here, winter is coming soon and I’m considering re-reading a few of my favourites, however I can’t afford to because my to read list is growing and growing…

  • This is one of my all time favorite novels! I used to pass it around and work and insist everyone should read it 😛

    • It is a lovely read, I should be recommending this to all my lady friends!

  • If Margaret has never published any of her bios how does Miss Winter get to hear she is a biographer? Or is that one of the mysteries too?

    • She did some research on Margaret, before approaching her. She lured her with the fact that the story is about twins (which it was) knowing that Margaret recently found out that she herself had a twin that died at birth, her parents keeping that secret from her.

      To be completely honest with you, I can’t remember now if Vida knew that she liked writing biographies in her spare time – I read this almost 2 years ago and this was an old review that got “lost” when I moved my posts from another blog. That’s why I want to re-read this one. Sorry I couldn’t answer your question 🙁 You should consider reading it though – its one of those novels you can finish in a day.

  • Love the cover 🙂

    • It is a beautiful cover! I read the Kindle book, but yes if I saw this in a bookstore I would probably buy the book for the cover alone 🙂

  • This was heavily hyped in the UK and so perhaps that was why I was completely underwhelmed by it. It will be interesting to see if her second novel, ‘Bellman and Black’ which is due out in October receives as much publicity.

    • Sorry you didn’t like it so much. Luckily I read it a few years after the hype. Thank you for clearing up that question for us (the second novel). I’m looking forward to it.

    • It’s available on Netgalley for review. Publication date is 5th November. I just got my copy. Let’s hope it’s good 🙂

  • The title alone is intriguing. This book sounds like a fascinating story! I really want to check it out.

    • You should, Kelly. When you do, I hope you will like it.

  • A friend of mine reviewed this book a little less kindly. I love gothic literature, so I want to check it out! http://www.thebookaweekproject.com/2013/04/review-thirteenth-tale-by-diane.html

    • I guess it’s not for everyone. Everyone have a different experience with each book, like The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – I read rave review, yet I wasn’t the biggest fan. You should read this one, maybe you will like it, or maybe not 🙂

      I will check out this review, thanks for the link.

  • Isi

    This book is on my list too!
    Here we have the same cover, and I’m looking forward to reading it, I’m sure I will love it just the same as you did!

    • Great stuff! I hope you enjoy it x

  • This seems like a great book for me! The premise is just so interesting. I can’t imagine what my excitement would be if a famous person with an unknown life asked me to write their bibliography! I would probably squee until I went hoarse.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts ^_^

    • Will you consider reading it? 🙂
      To be honest, I would get SO nervous!!

  • I have only heard great things about this book. I’ve also had a few bloggers recommend it. I have a digital copy on my Kindle, so I’ll have to check it out soon. But Kate Morton comes first!!! 😉

    • I hope you will enjoy it, once you read it
      I am so glad to hear you finally going to read some Kate Morton! 🙂

  • I remember reading this in one day. It’s a great book! And what book lover could resist that cover! I’m glad I read through your comments to learn the author is coming out with another book.

    • Hi Tracey, I’m glad so many people like this book. The cover is so beautiful and yes, I can’t wait for her second book. I hope it’s good…

      Thanks for stopping by

  • I have read it. Quite some time ago that now I am forgetting some details already. But it is one of my favourites, and it is one that I hope to reread in the future. Can’t wait to check out her next novel Bellman and Black too.

    • This is one of the books I want to read again, as is Rebecca (Du Maurier)

      Thank you for mentioning the name of the new book, I will look out for it. This was a nice gothic novel. Not as dark, but I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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