The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – Book Review

The Thirteenth Tale2

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Goodreads Description:

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.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets… and the ghosts that haunt them still.

My Review:

This book started out fine.  I loved the setting of Margaret Lea’s family-owned bookstore.  It is exactly the kind of bookstore that I would want to roam through or own myself.  One day she receives a letter from a renowned author, Vida Winter, asking to meet with her.  Margaret had published some biographical pieces that caught Vida’s eye.  Now Vida wants to reveal her life story to Margaret so she can be the writer who reveals to the world the true life story of Vida Winter.

The setting of Vida’s home is quite scenic and reeks of a gothic story waiting to be told.  I was really enjoying this book at first because I liked the anticipation of reading a great atmospheric story.  I was greatly disappointed instead.

I found this story to be too disfunctional and unappealing for a gothic story.  I am a great fan of Jane Eyre, which this book has been likened to.  I loved Jane Eyre and also Flowers in the Attic which was a great modern story of secrets and disfunction.  They were books I could not put down.  This book was too long for the story being told and held none of the same shock or mystery that the previously mentioned books did.  It started on a high note and ended on a low note.  Diane Setterfield is an excellent writer and I might try one of her other books, but I just didn’t like the story being told in this one.