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The Thirteenth Tale Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 12, 2006
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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.