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The Thirteenth Tale [Hardcover]

Diane Setterfield
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 12 2006
Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father's antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise–she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.
Late one night, while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.
As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story. In the end, both women have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets. As well as the ghosts that haunt them still.

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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. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Margaret Lea, a bookish loner, is summoned to the home of Vida Winter, England's most popular novelist, and commanded to write her biography. Miss Winter has been falsifying her life story and her identity for more than 60 years. Facing imminent death and feeling an unexplainable connection to Margaret, Miss Winter begins to spin a haunting, suspenseful tale of an old English estate, a devastating fire, twin girls, a governess, and a ghost. As Margaret carefully records Vida's tale, she ponders her own family secrets. Her research takes her to the English moors to view a mansion's ruins and discover an unexpected ending to Vida's story. Readers will be mesmerized by this -story-within-a-story tinged with the eeriness of Rebecca and the willfulness of Jane Eyre. The author skillfully keeps the plot moving by unfurling a new twist in each chapter and leaves no strand untucked at the surprising and satisfying conclusion. A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics. Lovers of books about book lovers will be enthralled. Kaite Mediatore
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystery that will keep you guessing til the end Aug. 11 2009
I really like reading debut novels. Especially if they're great books because there is a promise of more great books to come. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a great debut novel. I read it one weekend when I was home sick and I literally could not put the book down.

It's a story about families, mostly dysfunctional ones. It's a story about stories. It's about people trying to discover their story and how that story fits into their family's story.

The story opens in a bookshop where the main character, Margaret works with her father. She has received an invitation to write the biography of a reclusive well-loved author with a mysterious background; a story that others have always wanted to hear. Margaret accepts the invitation and sets out to find a tale that will also help her tell her own story.

One of the more intriguing themes that run through the book is the theme of twins and their twinness. Another theme is childhood cruelty; this is not always an easy book to read. But the twists and turns of the mystery keep the reader coming back to the book for a thoroughly satisfying ending. I hope Diane Setterfield is well on her way to publishing another book; I for one will buy it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves more than 5 stars! March 5 2007
By Kay
This is one of the best gothic tales I have read! It's characters draw you in right from the beginning. I am a twin also so I really felt connected to them.

I highly recommend this book, also after reading the book check out the amazing website:

I hope they make this book into a movie!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too April 24 2008
This is a fascinating and rich Gothic mystery about a young Englishwoman who is hired to write the biography of a famous, dying author. The author has always kept her past a secret from her millions of fans, and the biographer is about to find out why. The young woman moves into the old author's home in the remote English countryside, and spends the ensuing weeks compiling details of the author's bizarre and disturbing early years. As the dying author tells that one final tale, her biographer finds herself working through some of her own demons. Interestingly, the biographer's demons at times bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the ones she is writing about for her employer.

THE THIRTEENTH TALE is a modern-day story, but it is written in an old-fashioned, Gothic style that takes its time to reveal its many secrets. It includes all the elements of a classic Gothic novel: a crumbling haunted house, English moors, dense fog, and a young heroine who finds herself in a potentially dangerous situation. It is gripping, at times frightening, and always interesting. I was kept guessing about how the story would eventually be resolved, and was pleased by how skillfully the author pulled all of the pieces together.

My biggest complaint about THE THIRTEENTH TALE is that the main character felt somewhat one-dimensional. It is possible, however, that the characterization might have been intentional. The main character has been damaged by her own past, so maybe this was demonstrated by making her seem less-than-complete. In any case, that is a minor complaint for the book because many of the other characters are so well drawn.

This is an excellent book for readers who like a good, unusual mystery.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing Nov. 27 2009
By Tanya
This book was amazing. A must read story that is full of suspence, twists and turns and an ending that was a true surprise. The author is a natural story teller and you just don't want to put the book down even though it is full or sadness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kelly's review Jan. 11 2007
By G.O.
THE THIRTEENTH TALE is not your average book----what is nowadays? The book opens with a woman and her trouble with the truth. All her life she has been telling people false stories about who she is.

She is a famous author, Vida Winter, who everytime she gives an interview, she tells a made up story of who she is. So, many people read her novels, but they do not truly know the woman behind the story. She has reached a point in her life, though, where she feels she needs to tell people who she is.

She enlists the main character for that task. The chance for this young lady to finally reveal to the world the truth of who Vida Winter is. The Thirteenth Tale.

The young lady that Miss Winters gets to write her biography, Margaret Lee, has been living above her fathers' bookstore, where she helps him. She has written a few biographies, but more for her interest than any fame.

One of her relatively unknown biographies, though, attracts the attention of Miss Winters and the message behind the words encourages her to contact Miss Lee. Margaret is dealing with her own sense of loss and not knowing who she really is, so while she is skeptical at first, she eventually agrees to write Miss Winters story.

And, what a story it is. It is amazing how who she was before became this author that sits in front of Margaret now. She lead a hard life, and by the looks of all the pages she has written, managed to make something of herself. If anything, she is famous for her unfinished collection of short stories, a collection that has left the world wondering and which is the inspiration for this novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 19 hours ago by bajanewtons
5.0 out of 5 stars My goodness I love the wonderful world that Dianne Setterfield
My goodness I love the wonderful world that Dianne Setterfield has created in this story rich with wonderfully flawed characters, a writing style that was so beautiful and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cindy Beverly
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
I enjoyed this book immensely... read it in a few days...the beginning maybe a little slow, but it is setting the story, which once it pulls you in, you will not be able to put... Read more
Published 2 months ago by roebag
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend this book
This book had me right away and held me right until the last word. I still want more, and wish it wasn't over. Amazing story.
Published 6 months ago by Melissa B
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
This book was recommended by a friend for which I will always be grateful. Diane Setterfield is a master in her field. Can't wait to read her next novel.
Published 6 months ago by Denyse Bertrand
4.0 out of 5 stars A gothic and eerie look into a truly dysfunctional family
*** This book review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (www.thebakingbookworm.blogspot. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars beautiful written gothic novel
I wanted to like this book more than I did - because there is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Lynne Frappier
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely spellbinding
I have to admit that I bought this book in the middle of some big life transitions so it took me a good week or so to get really into it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jenna321
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!
This came highly recommended by a friend and I totally agree with her. Well written and spell binding. I will definitely read anything else by Setterfield. Read more
Published 12 months ago by ourbar
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story that Sticks with you
It has been well over two years since I picked up this piece of contemporary fiction on a whim--I normally stick to the classics. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Talena Winters
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