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
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).
The Washington Post - Margaux Wexberg Sanchez
"The Thirteenth Tale" keeps us reading for its nimble cadences and atmospheric locales, as well as for its puzzles, the pieces of which, for the most part, fall into place just as we discover where the holes are. And yet, for all its successes -- and perhaps because of them -- on the whole the book feels unadventurous, content to rehash literary formulas rather than reimagine them.
like Jane [Eyre, Setterfield's heroine is] a real reader and makes a terrific narrator. That's where the comparisons end, but Setterfield, who lives in Yorkshire, offers graceful storytelling that has its own pleasures.
Booklist - Kaite Mediatore
A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics. Lovers of books about book lovers will be enthralled.
A contemporary Gothic tale whose excesses and occasional implausibility can be forgiven for the thrill of the storytelling. Setterfield's debut is enchanting Goth for the 21st century.
Library Journal - Jenne Bergstrom
[It's] a gothic novel, and it doesn't pretend to be anything fancier. But this one grabs the reader with its damp, icy fingers and doesn't let go until the last shocking secret has been revealed.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Stacy The beginning It is a book that was well written and very imaginative in its telling, but the beginning of the novel is a bit dry and long-winded in it description.
Rated of 5
by Charla Wilson A twist around every corner Ahhh! I do not really know where to begin in reviewing this book because there are so very many great things to be said about it. The first thing that comes to mind, are the many different paths that it takes the reader down. It will keep you... Read More
Rated of 5
by Gabrielle Renoir-Large A Comfy Book That Harkens Back to the Classics I bought Diane Setterfield’s bestseller, “The Thirteenth Tale” on impulse, when I saw it lying on a bargain table in the grocery store. I usually avoid bestsellers. Hype steers me away from books more often that it steers me towards them, and I... Read More
Rated of 5
by Consuelo The Thirteenth Tale I am an avid book reader and this book is by far one of my favorites. I could hardly wait until my day was winding down so I could pick it back up and read until my eyes were heavy! The characters were very well thought out and described so... Read More
Rated of 5
by Tammy Vanek Fantastic Book It has been 2 weeks and 2 books later that I cannot quit thinking about this book. It was not just the wonderful story itself but how it was told and presented for readers. I was so disappointed today to find out that the author has not written... Read More
Rated of 5
by Elizabeth Great read I recommend this to everyone who asks.
Great read...gothic, murder, mystery, twists and turns.
Vida Winters tells a great tale that will keep you interested non-stop. You don't want it to end. Loved the characters.
You will be confused... Read More
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
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
Gothic revival in the world of
architecture; and the world of
literature saw a, perhaps, connected
resurgence of Gothic literature, ranging
from the "penny dreadfuls" to the works
of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker, with
a Gothic influence being...
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