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Product Description from Amazon
Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Reviews from Amazon
Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.
There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father’s shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it’s the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:
“You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone.”
She [Vida] shrugged. “It’s my profession. I’m a storyteller.”
“I am a biographer, I work with facts.”
The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida’s plan. The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story’s end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told. –Valerie Ryan –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
The Thirteenth Tale received a reported $1 million advance in the United States and an even greater one in Britain. That, combined with comparisons of Diane Setterfield’s storytelling techniques to that of the Brontës, makes this debut novel a publicity coup of sorts. Certainly, The Thirteenth Tale—a family drama, romance, bildungsroman, mystery, and ghost story—intrigued most critics. Yet not all agreed that the novel lives up to the hype. Dazzling writing, a suspenseful story-within-a-story, and rich plot twists made an imaginative story. Some reviewers, however, cited gaps in plotting, dull characters (especially the twins), and an unexceptional ending. In end, it’s Setterfield’s old-fashioned storytelling and love for literature that makes the novel stand out.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘Beautifully written and highly intelligent. Blissful escapism for literate (and literary) females who love an old-fashioned story’ THE TIMES ‘A real treat…Like all the best first novels, this one seems to bulge with a lifetime’s hoarded inspirations. Setterfield litters the book with references to nineteenth-century gothic literature and other meta-textual winks and nudges. The effect is of a lit-crit parlour game, which only adds to the fun’ TIME OUT ‘Guiltily enjoyable’ MAIL ON SUNDAY ‘Whimsical, moving and consciously nostalgic, Diane Setterfield knows the limits of enchantment, even as she tries to break them’ TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT ‘Setterfield proves a mistress of the craft of storytelling and her musings about the pleasures of reading are beguiling’ GUARDIAN ‘Cleverly plotted, beautifully written homage to the classic romance mystery novel…It is a remarkable first novel, a book about the joy of books, a riveting multi-layered mystery that twists and turns, and weaves a quite magical spell for most of its length’ THE INDEPENDENT ‘A witty, entertaining and very satisfying read’ THE SPECTATOR ‘This bold, unusual debut is, as a Jane Austen character might have said, a vastly entertaining fiction’ DAILY MAIL ‘Make yourself a mug of cocoa and shut the curtains tight – a generous helping of gothic delight is about to be served’ DAILY EXPRESS ‘A remarkably compelling debut…This is an extraordinary, unusual and atmospheric story with a sense of timelessness about it. It is rare to be able to smell a book as well as read it, but this one is steeped in the aroma of old houses in remote places with strange faded furnishings and little natural light. It will appeal to anybody with a love of literature and a passion for the feel and smell of old books’ SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY ‘Brilliantly written – recommended’ EASY LIVING ‘Compelling page-turner’ WOMAN & HOME ‘a page-turner of a Gothic mystery’ SHE ‘A dark mystery in the vein of Daphne du Maurier about family secrets and the potency of storytelling’ THE LIST ‘The fiction that I will be most enthusiastically recommending to friends is Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. Much hyped, this has lived up to expectations; it is like Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie and the Brontes all rolled into one, which has to be a good thing’ BOOKSELLER ‘If you don’t mind drowning yourself in a captivating, beautifully written tale, go ahead and buy ‘The Thirteenth Tale. You won’t regret the purchase’ LITPUNDIT.COM ‘I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a book as much as I’ve enjoyed this one. WWW.THEBOOKBAG.CO.UK ‘An extraordinary story, full of twists and turns, spookiness and humour…As a debut novel, this is an impressive book and it is refreshing to read something that combines Gothic invention with realism so easily. For every fantastic plot twist there is a descriptive passage that catches the imagination completely. A wonderful book to settle down with on a Sunday afternoon: one that is both absorbing and fun’ WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY ‘The Thirteenth Tale is the sort of novel they don’t write any more, which makes it all the more welcome. Add to this Setterfield’s remarkable imagination coupled with her literate style and you have the makings of a modern classic’ YORKSHIRE EVE POST ‘Setterfield establishes, from the very first page, one of those narrative voices which you trust implicitly, warming to its calm understated authority’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ‘Setterfield writes evocatively and assuredly’ LITERARY REVIEW ‘This is an excellent emotional mystery which I found harder to put down every night!’ WOMAN’S OWN ‘Setterfield is a master of pacing’ THE SCOTSMAN ‘Diane Setterfield has a light lyric touch’ FINANCIAL TIMES ‘Start reading this on the bus and, I swear, you won’t only miss your stop, you might even lose the whole day’ COSMOPOLITAN – Great Reads of 2006 ‘The moorland romances of the Brontes and Daphne du Maurier are never far away from our vision of a perfect Christmas read. Draw up a chair, then, for debut novelist Diane Setterfield. It’s a windswept feast of abandoned babies, incestuous siblings and feral twins’ THE INDEPENDENT (Review) –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Diane Setterfield is a former academic, specializing in twentieth-century French literature. She lives in Yorkshire, England.