Book Reviews / Books

Review: The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale
© Kenyan Library

I have a fairly addictive personality when it comes to most things in life – I can never have just one chocolate biscuit, if I find a pair of jeans that fit (a rarity), I buy them in three colours, when I hear a song I like for the first time, I have it on repeat for at least a week. The same applies to my reading method. If I find a writer I like, I’ll read everything they’ve had published. It started with Enid Blyton, before progressing to Ann M Martin and Francine Pascal (of The Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley High fame respectively) through to Shakespeare, Joanne Harris and Oscar Wilde. And as this type of reader, there is nothing quite so frustrating as finding a book you love, only to discover it’s the sole publication by the author.

Which is precisely how I felt having finished The Thirteenth Tale by former teacher Diane Setterfield.

The novel tells the story of biographer Margaret Lea, daughter of an antiquarian book dealer, who is asked to complete the last wish of gravely ill novelist Vida Winter by penning her biography. Wanting to find out more about a woman whose books she has never read, Margaret finds a copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, which, confusingly, contains just twelve stories. And so, intrigued, she fulfills Vida’s final request and in doing so becomes immersed in a tangled and troubling history, forcing her to confront ghosts of her own.

The Thirteenth Tale is a composition of much that I love about reading – a gothic undertone with Victorian sensibility, themes of identity and a gripping plot. The perfect tale for book lovers far and wide, The Thirteenth Tale will undoubtedly reawaken a love of books in all those who read it.

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About The Thirteenth Tale

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, brutal, dangerous Charlie, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House hides a chilling secret which strikes at the very heart of each of them, tearing their lives apart…

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past – and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic writer Vida Winter? And what is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret’s own, troubled life?

As Margaret digs deeper, two parallel stories unfold, and the tale she uncovers sheds a disturbing light on her own life…

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.

About Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her second novel is Bellman & Black (2013). Diane lives in Oxford, in the UK. When not writing she reads widely, and when not actually reading she is usually talking or thinking about reading. She is, she says, ‘a reader first, a writer second.’

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