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From Barnes & NobleThe Inaugural Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
Diane Setterfield's remarkable first novel -- a tale of ghostly legacies, descended from Jane Eyre -- begins like a reader's dream: a bookseller's daughter returns to the shop one night to discover a letter from England's best-loved writer, a woman whose life is shrouded in rumor and legend. Reading the strange missive from the famous Vida Winter, Margaret Lea is puzzled by its invitation to discover the truth about the author's mystifying past. Later that evening, unable to sleep, Margaret returns to the shop from her bedroom upstairs in search of something to read. Passing over her old favorites -- The Woman in White, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre -- she can't resist the temptation of the rarest of her correspondent's books, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, the recalled first edition of a book that contained only twelve stories. Falling under Vida Winter's spell for the first time, Margaret reads it straight through. Not long afterward she is standing in the opulent library of Miss Winter's Yorkshire home, transported by the romance of books into a mysterious tale of her own.
Only five short chapters into Setterfield's deft, enthralling narrative, her readers too have been transported: they've inhaled the dusty scent of Lea's Antiquarian Bookshop, shared the sense of adventurous comfort Margaret absorbs from her late-night reading, and been seduced by the glamorous enigma of Vida Winter. Yet The Thirteenth Tale has just begun. Commissioned by Miss Winter to compose her unvarnished biography, Margaret is soon swept up in the tragic history she must unravel -- a story stranger and more haunting than any the celebrated author has ever penned, encompassing a grand house, a beautiful yet doomed family, passion, madness, ghosts, and a secret that holds readers spellbound until the very end. Richly atmospheric and deeply satisfying, Setterfield's debut revives in all their glory the traditions of gothic and romantic suspense exemplified by the works of Wilkie Collins, the Brontës, and Daphne du Maurier. Old-fashioned in the best sense, it's an urgently readable novel that's nearly impossible to put down.
From Our Booksellers
It's not often that I would even dare to compare a book to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but The Thirteenth Tale is one that I will. This book is absolutely wonderful. It's a classic gothic tale, with ghosts and a grand house, good and evil and a secret that will have you guessing until the very end. --Sessalee Hensley, Barnes & Noble Fiction Buyer
In about five pages -- I was hooked! I could not put the book down! Neglecting everything from the dishes to sleep, I finished the book in two short nights and have been thinking about it ever since. --Jessica Flowers, Barnes & Noble, Bloomington, IL
WOW! When I was down to the final few chapters, I almost didn't want to go to work so I could finish! And I LOVE my work, so that should tell you how great I thought the book was. --Teresa Patek, Barnes & Noble, Crystal Lake, IL
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"Silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you."
Brew a cup of tea and prepare to lose yourself in one of the most engrossing reads of the year -- an expertly rendered modern-day gothic novel, complete with richly drawn characters, hulking houses in the English countryside, and an irresistible mystery. Our narrator is Margaret Lea, the daughter of a rare-books dealer, who lives a quiet life helping her father and occasionally writing short pieces on obscure literary figures. Summoned by the famously mysterious writer Vida Winter, Margaret is proposed as her biographer. Flattered, Margaret agrees, enticed by the writer's desire to lay bare the details of her past. But as Margaret churns up the ghosts of Miss Winter's past, she will end up confronting her own ghosts as well.
Setterfield's interest is in relationships -- the emotions, history, and scars that connect us to each other and make it impossible to escape who we are and where we've come from. But while her time frame is the present, the world she creates in The Thirteenth Tale is haunting, romantic, and very, very English. Come to think of it, make that a pot of tea, since once you start reading, you won't be getting up anytime soon. (Holiday 2006 Selection)