Jemm Frances Reads: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is Setterfield’s first and only novel to date. What better compliment can I give this story than to say that ever since I turned the last page I have been eagerly awaiting Diane’s second offering. Alas, so far, my waiting has been in vain. But I’m getting quite ahead of myself.

I picked up this book expecting it to be like all the other books that I like to read, but there is something special about this one that sets it apart from the rest. The Thirteenth Tale has everything that makes bookworms want to read: secrets, mystery, tragedy, loss, ghosts, romance, history, libraries and dark and stormy nights. A book for book lovers if ever I’ve found one.

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Margaret Lea has so far lead a quiet life hiding amongst the books of her father’s old bookshop; the stories keep her company and her confidence. When she returns home one day to find a waiting letter, a letter from a popular and reclusive authoress named Vida Winter, Margaret is set on a journey that will rewrite history.

Enigmatic Miss Winter has spent her entire life spinning a storytellers yarn; fooling those around her. She has spent her whole career telling false tales of her life to journalists and biographers, so much so that no one knows who Vida Winter really is. But Miss Winter is dying and she knows that time is running out. The truth needs to be told and the only person she is willing to tell it to is Margaret Lea.

Sequestered in the library of the writers rambling home, Margaret begins to learn and unravel the thirteenth tale, the story that until now Miss Winter has never been able to tell. It is the tale of Angelfield House, once the home of two feral young twins Emmeline and Adeline March, but is now nothing more than a burnt out shell. It is the tale of unspeakable family secrets and their echoing consequences down the years.

Why has Vida Winter kept these secrets for so long and why is she willing to give them up now? What terrible fate befell Angelfield house? What do the inhabitants and their stories have to do with the famous Miss Winter? And why does Miss Winter’s final tale strike such a cord with Margaret Lea?ย 

The Thirteenth Tale almost has a fairytale air about it and is reminiscent of classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (both of which are referenced repeatedly in this book.) The character of Vida Winter brings to mind a modern day Miss Havisham.

Setterfield’s language and description richly brings to life the unique characters and constantly twisting plot. This book is honestly one of the most intriguing, compelling and captivating I have had the pleasure to read. A favourite I go back to again and again.

โ€œThere is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.โ€ A line written by Setterfield and it certainly rings true for her story. Please, please, please write that second novel Diane!

I’m going to leave it there because if you have never read this book I’m going to let you get on with it as Setterfield tells it much better than I can describe it.

Bookworm Business: Have you ever read The Thirteenth Tale? What did you think? If you’ve never read it are you going to give it a look?

Jemm xoxo

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2 Comments

Filed under Books, Jemm Frances Reads...

2 responses to “Jemm Frances Reads: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

  1. This sounds like my type of book! I’ll definitely be adding this to my ‘to-read list’. I loved both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights

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