The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
by Diane Setterfield
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.
It seems like it has taken me forever to finish this book. It wasn’t a difficult book, and in fact, it was very well written as far as I’m concerned. It just didn’t have much action to hold my attention. If you are searching for action and adventure, this isn’t for you.
Margaret Lea is the daughter of a rare bookshop owner. She sends her days tending to the shop and reading the biographies of people who have retreated into obscurity since their death. One day she receives a letter from one of the most famous contemporary authors in England, Vida Winter. Vida wants Margaret to write her biography. Margaret is puzzled by this for several reasons: she isn’t even a fan, and she isn’t even a biographer. She somewhat grudgingly agrees to take on the task, and sets off to begin her writing journey. As Margaret begins the task of interviewing the old woman, she slowly unravels a decades-old mystery.
I had heard such great reviews about this book and had fairly high hopes for it. It was decent, but I would have only given it 3 stars if it weren’t for the fact that it surprised me at the end. The first 300 pages were just so-so for me. This is not your traditional mystery, but it is intriguing none the less. I’d say go ahead and give this one a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it, but it won’t be a reread for me.