Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
First published by Orion in 2006 (this edition by Orion in 2007)

Description (from back cover):

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?

My thoughts:
So, first things first: WHY on earth did I not read this book when I first borrowed it????? It was such a good read! It's definitely between my top reads for this year, if not the top top one.

This book is split up into four parts: Beginnings, Middles, Endings and Post Scriptum. It follows the layout of a story. As Vida Winter says in the novel, 'Every story has a beginning, a middle and an ending'. That is exactly the way she wants to tell Margaret her story. One of her stipulations for telling Margaret her story is that she won't interrupt her, will not ask her any questions that might cause her to tell her story out of order. Though Margaret seems to be initially reluctant to take on the assignment (as she has only dealt with writing biographies of long dead people), but slowly, the story of Vida Winter and the involvement of Angelfield House pull her in.

When I started reading this book, I was immediately pulled into it. We, as readers, hear Vida Winter's story, but we also get snippets of Margaret's own story. When Vida Winter talks about the past, she talks about it in a way that made me feel as if I was actually there. The passage from present to past and back again is done very smoothly, you actually end up feeling as if you are slipping into the story yourself. That is how good Diane Setterfield's writing is.

Oh, I forgot to mention. This book has quite a few twists and turns in it, some predictable, some not, but none are as unpredictable as that BIG one. Honestly! I knew a big twist was coming (Shana from A Book Vacation sort-of let it slip), but I still did not expect it to be what it turned out to be

The characters are so multi-dimensional. They all hide secrets, some small, some huge and all of them seem to be essential in the telling of the story. Margaret is a lovely character. She is a book lover, having grown up in her father's antique book store, helping him run it, year after year. (I actually felt rather jealous about that. I would have loved growing up in a bookshop.) Vida Winter is quite a difficult character and extremely complex. Throughout the book, while she is telling her story, we find out more and more about her, which in part explain why she has been so reclusive in the past and I loved that slow unravelling of her story.

I really didn't want this story to end. But it had to and I loved it. If only for the lovely words Diane Setterfield has written about book at the beginning of the book.

Rating: 10/10 (of course!)

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Setterfield studied French Literature at Bristol University and specialized in 20th century French literature, particularly the works of Andre Gide. She worked at a number of schools, before stopping in the late 90's to write. The Thirteenth Tale is her debut novel. She is rumoured to be currently working on her second novel (can't wait!).

Read for: 100 Books In A Year 2011 Challenge, British Books Challenge 2011


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this novel! It's a consuming read, alright.

  2. Not heard of this one before but you've certainly got me interested now - especially with its full marks rating. I haven't read a good mystery in ages.

    Such a great review, so enthusiastic (:

  3. I really enjoyed this book as well when I read it a few years back. I've been seriously considering a reread of it and your review made me want to check it out from the library right now :) Great review!


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