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The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Diane Setterfield
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,469 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description


When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny.

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.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.

There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:

"You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone."

She [Vida] shrugged. "It's my profession. I'm a storyteller."

"I am a biographer, I work with facts."

The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida's plan. The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story's end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to Brontë and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. With the aid of colorful Aurelius Love, Margaret puzzles out generations of Angelfield: destructive Uncle Charlie; his elusive sister, Isabelle; their unhappy parents; Isabelle's twin daughters, Adeline and Emmeline; and the children's caretakers. Contending with ghosts and with a (mostly) scary bunch of living people, Setterfield's sensible heroine is, like Jane Eyre, full of repressed feeling—and is unprepared for both heartache and romance. And like Jane, she's 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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 834 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385662858
  • Publisher: Atria Books (September 12, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000JMKRKC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,027 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
950 of 988 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable Read December 9, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I almost never review books on Amazon, but I just finished reading "The Thirteenth Tale" and logged onto Amazon to see if Diane Setterfield had written any other books and in the process browsed the existing reviews. I found that I could agree with neither the positive nor the negative reviews. A majority of the positive reviews simply fawn over the book without explaining why it is so good. Many of the reviews are filled with overworked hyperbole. Many of the negative reviews struck me as so vitriolic that I wonder if the reviewer had forgotten their meds before starting the review. And so, I decided to write a review. I'm not going to tell you whether it is a good or a bad book, I'm going to tell you if I liked it or not and why.

I enjoyed the book for the following reasons:

1. The plot interested me (see book description if you don't already know the plot).

2. The writing is excellent. Richly descriptive without being so wordy that I felt like skimming paragraphs.

3. I found the characters interesting, believable and well-developed.

4. The pacing of the story was just how I like it in a book of this genre. Slightly meandering with a steady rise and fall of tempo. This gives me plenty of exciting reading, but also allows me places to stop reading when I need to go to bed or do something else.

Is this book great literature? Hell, I don't know and don't care. I enjoyed reading it and that's what reading is all about for me.
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627 of 658 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Debut September 14, 2006
Format:Hardcover
When a first novel is immediately (and enthusiastically) compared to the works of such literary luminaries as the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, a large dose of skepticism is in order. I read this book with a jaundiced eye, expecting to eventually uncover at least one unconvincing character, a plot twist that failed to surprise, or a passage less than vivid, unworthy of the masters.

I did not.

Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale carries the reader along like a turbulent river, with unexpected eddies and undertows you can't escape. The characters are absolutely true to the worlds of Dickens and Austen, but they're originals, not derivatives. They grieve and you do, they rejoice and you do, they die and you do- almost. The whole atmosphere of the book is powerful and sweeping, in the manner of Henry James or even Joseph Conrad. (Well, minus all those ships, of course.) If I had to pick one story that gave the same overall effect, I'd pick The Turn of the Screw, since the ghost element in Setterfield's book is equally shocking and unique, although James's classic novella lacks the grand span and scope of The Thirteenth Tale. Then again, Setterfield's characters could just as easily find a home in Dickens' dangerous London squalor or in the halls of a Bronte mansion, the air thick with secrets and heavy with troubled specters anxious to make themselves known.

Intriguing, daring and even downright heart-pounding at times, The Thirteenth Tale might well give you nightmares at the end, but they'll be the best- and most original- nightmares you've ever had.

-Mark Wakely, author of An Audience for Einstein
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676 of 714 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Do you intend to tell me the truth?" September 12, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Vida Winter, England's most famous and reclusive writer, is nearing the end, and before she goes she wants her amazing life story to be recorded for posterity. For this, she engages a lonely young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has a few secrets of her own. When these two forceful women meet, the stage is set for an ever-mounting series of shocking surprises.

I've always been a fan of the Gothic style of romantic mystery, and some of my favorite authors are the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and Robert Goddard. If you share my love of windswept moors, bleak houses and strange families, you're in for a real treat. THE THIRTEENTH TALE is a masterful, deliberately old-fashioned story of secrets, ghosts, sexual obsession, murder, madness--you name it, and it's here.

This is a beautiful book. I'm going to give copies to a few friends, and I plan to read it again. The only other books I've actually read twice are GREAT EXPECTATIONS, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and REBECCA. What else can I say? Enjoy.
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80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a praising, non-spoiler review September 21, 2006
Format:Hardcover
It is a dark and stormy night as I write this. Or, to be more accurate, a dark and stormy morning. The weather reflects the exquisite melancholy that has settled itself upon me at the completion of The Thirteenth Tale. Diane Setterfield's debut novel is one of those all-too-rare stories that gets under your skin, that grabs hold of your imagination with both hands and won't let go.

I have cherised the reading of this book over the last week. All other books were set aside. When I wasn't reading The Thirteenth Tale, I was thinking about it, remembering it. I looked forward to those stolen moments when I might be able to read but a few pages as much as I did those hours that I could devote to the tale. I hung on every word and savored The Thirteenth Tale as one would a well-prepared meal. And now it has ended and, contrary to my normal habits I am not anxious to pick up the next story. I am not yet ready to move on.

To put it plainly, The Thirteenth Tale was bound to fail. It had to overcome the weight of considerable expectations. It seemed that everywhere I turned prior to its release someone or some thing was inducing me to buy this book. Comparisons to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca only served to heighten those expectations. And as I stood in the bookstore holding this beautiful volume in my hands (raised letter dust jacket with an image to make a book lover swoon, serrated pages that smelled of new paper and fresh ink, gold embossed designs on the spine of the book itself) my expectations were at a fever pitch.

As I read those first pages I was nervous. Diane Setterfield was obviously attempting to speak with the voice of her gothic ancestors a century or more gone. A few of the initial sentences worried me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
wonderful tale with rich language and unexpected turns aplenty
Published 8 hours ago by Marj Riley
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book
Loved the book, was completely surprised at the twist in the ending. Have recommended it to others. It is our book club selection this month, am looking forward to hearing how... Read more
Published 1 day ago by B. Spadea
4.0 out of 5 stars fantastic story of a fantastic story
This book is beautifully written and mysterious through to the end. A story about a great storyteller. Read more
Published 1 day ago by molly cox
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Beautiful writing style and thoughtful character insights. Story itself lacked substance and was predictable
Published 2 days ago by Allan John
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Spooky and fun read! You won't be disappointed.
Published 4 days ago by Kathleen P O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will never cease to intrigue
An excellent book. I've listened to it perhaps four times and have given copies of audiobooks to friends. A great first book for Setterfield.
Published 4 days ago by C. Greene
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story
My co-worker suggested that I read this book and I'm glad he did. This story was very interesting and it was very different from the books I usually read. Great book!
Published 5 days ago by Tracey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it surprised ending . Hard to put down !
Published 7 days ago by Nancy Abernathy
5.0 out of 5 stars A new classic
I enjoy books. All genres. However, I miss the way the classical novels draw you in. Now, don't misinterpret. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Denise
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book and the film isn't bad either!
Published 10 days ago by BookLover
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More About the Author

Diane Setterfield is a former academic, specializing in twentieth-century French literature. She lives in Yorkshire, England.

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Who was Vida's mother?
It was a girl that Charlie raped. Someone poor from the village who ended up giving up Vida. They never said her name.
Dec 1, 2007 by Ani Kassabian |  See all 22 posts
other books like this one
This reminded me much of "The Ghost Writer" by John Harwood. A great ghost story!
Mar 4, 2007 by Tess |  See all 64 posts
the fire
Who died in the fire is for the reader to decide. One of the beauties of this novel is the fact that she leaves it to the reader to fill in some of the blanks.
Nov 12, 2006 by Roger Long |  See all 16 posts
Was Vida in love with Emmeline?
I think that Vida was lonely. A child raised like that, in secret, no parents or guides, constantly shut out of a relationship that was the center of the universe in which she lived would obviously crave being a part of that relationship. I think that she love Emmaline because she had no one... Read More
Mar 6, 2010 by Daisy Miller |  See all 10 posts
Violin throwing
Lauren,

Adeline hit the doctor's wife with the violin. (Adeline and Vida are two different people.) Remember that Adeline was always violent and even when there was no provocation, she would hurt others.
Jun 26, 2008 by Baking Enthusiast |  See all 2 posts
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