All children mythologize their birth...So
begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's
collection of stories, which are as famous for the
mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for
the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.
The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.
As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.
Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.
It was November. Although it was not yet late,
the sky was dark when I turned into Laundress Passage. Father
had finished for the day, switched off the shop lights and
closed the shutters; but so I would not come home to darkness he
had left on the light over the stairs to the flat. Through the
glass in the door it cast a foolscap rectangle of paleness onto
the wet pavement, and it was while I was standing in that
rectangle, about to turn my key in the door, that I first saw
the letter. Another white rectangle, it was on the fifth step
from the bottom, where I couldn't miss it.
I closed the door and put the shop key in its usual place behind Bailey's Advanced Principles of Geometry. Poor Bailey. No one has wanted his fat gray book for thirty years. Sometimes I wonder what he makes of his role as guardian of the bookshop keys. I don't suppose it's the destiny he had in mind for the ...
Setterfield's erudite first work of fiction has all the hallmarks of a classic gothic novel, including the creepy ruined house, long-kept secrets, a madwoman in the attic and a dabbling of ghosts, Set in present-day England it has drawn comparisons to novels by the likes of Daphne du Maurier, Wilkie Collins and Charlotte Bronte.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (880 words).
What is a gothic novel?
Definitions of a gothic novel abound but
most sources agree that it is one in
which supernatural horrors and an
atmosphere of terror are pervasive, and
where the action usually takes place in
a dark, mysterious building, typically a
castle built in the Gothic architectural
Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764) is considered the first gothic novel, but it was Ann Radcliffe who popularized the form with novels such as The Mysteries of Udolpho. During the 19th century there was a ...
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