The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield
4.2 1653

Hardcover(Large Print)

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

A compelling emotional mystery in the timeless vein of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, about family secrets and the magic of books and storytelling.

Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of them invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.

Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorkshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline.
Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.

About the Author
Born in Berkshire, England, Diane Setterfield was educated at Theale Green Comprehensive School and Bristol University. A former academic, she has taught at various universities in England and in France, specializing in 20th-century French literature, especially the works of André Gide. She has also run her own business teaching French to people intending to move across the Channel. The Thirteenth Tale is her first novel.

The Thirteenth Tale was in part inspired by Setterfield’s wish to return to the storytelling richness of the books she treasured in her youth. "I read French literature almost exclusively for more than a decade," she explains, "so when I left academia, I really wanted to go back to the English classics which I loved so much as a teenager. It was very nostalgic for me to write in that sort of style." As she worked on The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield's talent was spotted by the novelist Jim Crace during a writing course she had enrolled in to advance the prospects of publication.

In her early forties, Diane Setterfield is married and lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781585478927
Publisher: Center Point Large Print
Publication date: 01/01/2007
Series: Readers Circle Series
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 509
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Diane Setterfield is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale, and a former academic, specializing in twentieth-century French literature, particularly the works of Andre Gide. She lives in Oxford, England.


Yorkshire, England

Date of Birth:

August 22, 1964

Place of Birth:

Berkshire, England


Theale Green School, Berkshire (1975-1982); B.A., University of Bristol, 1986); Ph.D. in French, 1993

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The Thirteenth Tale 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1653 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for our book club. It was captivating after the first 30 pages or so. The writing style is beautiful and it kept me wondering throughout the book. I usually can figure out the twists and mysteries as I read- but this was really different and fascinating to the end!
My book club loved it as well. It was really interesting discussing it and most of us went home and read it again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some books get a 'WOW', some books get a 'spectacular', and some books just defy any term to describe the powerful emotions one feels after finishing the last word, on the last page of a book. THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield is just one of those 'once every so often' powerhouse reads!!! Combine the atmosphere and timeless style of a classic Bronte's' JANE EYRE, or any Charles Dickens's novel. Mix in the new creativity of the more recent bestsellers, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, Gregory Maguire's WICKED, and Audrey Niffenegger's THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Finally add the wonderment of a tale of Cinderella's child, or any other tale that has yet to be told. AND----You may just rise to the level of Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE!! This is a magical tale, unlike any other, about a young girl, Margaret Lea, who is living and working in an antiquarian books store with her loving father and emotionally absent mother. She is called upon to fulfill the request of writing the 'true' biography of the singularly fanciful , morbidly mysterious, and ever illusive popular tale writer, Vita Winter. Both women seemed to have tragically lost a twin, and maintain a flair for the dramatic in their thoughts and actions. As Margaret visits Miss Winter to listen to her life story and pursue her mission for Miss Winter, a most exciting and unique tale emerges. Similar to many fairy tales, yet eerie in its emerging truths, Setterfield creates a story of her own that will keep readers and book clubs breathless for more and more!! This book is such an all encompassing read because it engages the senses, the intellect, and the emotions. Reading the last word on the last page is both joyful and heartbreaking. A wonderfully, complete story has emerged but there is a real taste for needing more and more for the reader. The mysterious lives and incidents in these two women's stories ebbed ,and grew, and flowered in my mind with an all consuming passion until I felt that I knew them as completely as I know myself. As Diane Setterfield says through Vita Winters--'Everyone has a story'--and as promised, Setterfield tells a stupendous one in her book, THE THIRTEENTH TALE. How can this possible be a first time story by this author? Readers will finish this book and be impatiently awaiting a new one from her immediately!!!
BeaderReader More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic book written with the atmosphere of a different age. If you are a fan of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, etc. (and who isn't) you simply MUST read this engaging novel. It pulled me completely in and I felt just like Margaret--never wanting to leave the world and companionship of my newfound friends at Angelfield. More please, Ms. Setterfield!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I started reading this book I found that I kept looking for time to read it. It was a little slow out of the gate but once I got thru the first couple of chapters it really took off. Good for younger readers also.
MsMerlin More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and immediately bought a copy for my sister. The use of language is marvelous. The plot is original and the characters are facinating. I hope the author , Diane Setterfield, will write more books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The start was not a quick read. But less than an eighth of the way into it, it grasped me! The characters were seamlessly intertwined. Just when you think you know, the story becomes more mysterious until the very end. In part tragic, otherwise a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another book I happened to see on the B&N website that seemed to come highly recommended. I am always interested in a good ghost story, so I decided to give it a shot and was definitely pleased! The main character is well introduced and easy enough to relate to which makes it all the more interesting to uncover Ms. Winter's secrets with her. There are so many unexpected twists and turns in her tale that, even as someone who is rarely caught off guard, I was surprised at some of the directions the story takes. The morals of most of the characters involved are definitely questionable, but that seems to only make it all the more interesting to read!
SHARON39 More than 1 year ago
I second all the five star reviews!!! UNFORGETTABLE!! BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN! A JOY TO READ! Another book I recently finished that left me wanting more was EXPLOSION IN PARIS by LINDA MASEMORE PIRRUNG....LOVED IT!!!! Check out the reviews! That's what hooked ME!!
42n81 More than 1 year ago
"The Thirteenth Tale" is a booklover¿s delight of gothic fiction, murder mystery and intrigue rolled into one compulsively addictive novel. Overtones of a modern-day "Jane Eyre" and "The Woman in White" haunt Diane Setterfield¿s work of compelling suspense, and like these hallowed predecessors (which the main characters mention as two of their favorite books, by the way), will have readers flying through the pages, mentally trying to solve the multi-level puzzles before the author so deftly and satisfyingly does for them. I only wish more books were this well written and this thought-provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books I've ever read. Its suspenseful and surprising and it challenges your mind to understand its frightful details. It's probably not the best for children though, due to its adult topics and there are a couple of gory scenes within. Although quite disturbing this book is a great read and I love the authors style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the first several pages and found myself suffocated by the author's extravagant application of words. Her philosophy appears to be: why use a few well chosen words to convey an idea when twenty words can be crammed into the sentence instead? I imagined the author as an acquaintance endeavoring to tell a story aloud, and myself having to stifle the urge to interrupt and ask her to get to the point. I skipped ahead to the middle of the book and discovered the same wordy trend. I do love a big fat book, but only if the content justifies the length of the manuscript as a whole, as well as that of its descriptions and dialogue. In reading, as in most things, less can be more. Too much chattiness, and my interest wanes. But that is my opinion and not a universal perception. If you enjoy verbosity or simply have more patience, this could be a good read for you.
TNVHeadBookworm More than 1 year ago
Our book club read this as our thirteenth and final title of the year where every single person thoroughly enjoyed it (16 members) and agreed it was the perfect mysterious tale to conclude with. The characters are captivating and the family secrets are divulged with perfect timing. The rhythm of the story is soothing, but the content is provocative. It's one of those stories you are driven to continue reading way past bedtime! The book club discussion was interesting because the plot lends itself to a variety of interpretations developed through the imagination of each reader. It's staying on my bookshelf to enjoy again in the future!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I've read in a long time. After I finished reading it the first time I wanted to read it again to see what I missed the first time.
Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
The novel attracted me by its synopsis and the strong reviews posted by many readers who referred to it as interesting, imaginative and an exciting blend of classics and contemporary fiction.... reminiscent of a classic British novel...I have to admit I am not a fan of classics but a change can sometimes be refreshing. The premise has its merits: a high profile novelist Vida Winter wants her autobiography written before she dies and summons Margaret Lea, an unknown writer who is presently working in her father's book store to record her words. Margaret readily accepted the invitation, she sees similarities to her own deep secrets.....The story sounds simple enough ... Once started, Vida tells multilayered tales, stories within stories, tragedy upon tragedy some mixed with romance. The characters become lost in a ever lasting story and return for an encore..... to top it, some even manage to do whatever again in other characters' stories.... Have I lost you along the way ... not surprising... It was hard to keep my mind open and stop it from wandering, I got lost(bored) many times while trying to comprehend this convoluted tale. What a novel, melodrama on top of melodrama, a bouillabaisse of mysteries one hard to follow where place is important (on a Yorkshire Estate) and time irrelevant (19th, 20th, 21st century, today, tomorrow???) I simply had to skip through some paragraphs and speed read others. It was such a tedious read that I am still wondering why I lost so much time ....To finish my ranting, I also hated the characterization seems the only thing on their minds was a cup of cocoa , they were not very memorable..... Ok don't take my word, I am in the minority disliking this novel most enjoyed it immensely, so give it a try, see if you agree or disagree, we will see which side of the fence you fall on when you fall asleep.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was reluctant to purchase this book, given all the hype. I did though and was thouroughly enjoying the read. I thought it was so well written. I even recommended it to others. Then when I reached the end I was SO dissapointed. I really think she could have done so much more with the characters and come up with a much better ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was wonderful. It was one of the those books that you could not wait to pick up and start reading again. I'm not one for giving away plots in reviews so I'll just say that if you love a good story that has a little bit of everything (mystery, romance, etc.) and you're looking for something new to read, give this book a go.
LitLoversLane More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while, one has the luck to stumble upon a truly gifted author. An author who can do it all: craft a spellbinding story that refuses to loosen its grip on the reader; conjure up a space-time continuum and transport the reader there; give birth to vivid, but nuanced characters that almost leap off the page to inhabit one’s minds’s eye; and wield the written work with as much artistry and flair as a master painter with his colors. In my humble opinion, I stumbled on just such an author when I picked up Diane Setterfield’s first novel. Truly, I don’t know what I loved most about this book. First, the story was expertly molded. With the use of flashbacks, Ms. Winter spun her story to young biographer Margaret Lea, but the present time also had its twists and turns as Margaret conducted her own research into her subject’s life. The slipping to and fro between past and present was seamless and built excitement. Just when Ms. Winter’s flashback story of her strange and somewhat disturbing childhood would ensnare me and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, the author would switch to present time, whetting my appetite, building my curiosity. But one didn’t mind the change in the time continuum because the present time story was just as compelling, just as spellbinding. I had very little clue where I was being led at any given point, but wherever it was I wanted to follow, and I never guessed the truth of Vida Winter’s life until the author laid it out. It was such a joy to be totally flabbergasted. Secondly, her characters were multifaceted, believable, and vivid. I could envision them, wonder about them, care about them. I wanted to puzzle them out. For instance, as I read,  I didn’t know whether to like Ms. Winter or not. She never really lets people into her life, even the reader. She’s imperious and controlling, and one senses she has always gotten her way. She’s uninviting and not the least bit gracious or comforting in nature,  but one also senses vulnerability and that perhaps the superiority is all an act born of necessity… perhaps, she has built a wall around herself and her emotions to defend against anyone getting to close and learning her secrets. Her young biographer, Margaret Lea, is rather like her, though much more approachable. Margaret has also closed herself off for reasons that are not apparent at first, but Margaret is not so off-putting. One immediately feels empathy for her. Finally, simply put, Diane Setterfield has a way with words. Her prose is some of the finest in modern writing that I’ve seen, casting beautiful images in unique, creative ways. I was fascinated by the unusual ways she chose to describe the most mundane of things. For instance, here is a passage regarding memory lapses: At the moment she first learned the facts of Charlie’s departure it had brushed her consciousness momentarily, but had not found a place to settle there. The passages, corridors and stairwells in her mind, that connected her thoughts but also held them apart, had been undermined. Picking up one end of a trail of thought, she followed it through holes in the walls, slipped into tunnels that opened up beneath her feet, came to vague semi-puzzled halts: wasn’t there something….? Hadn’t she been…? In short, I have no problem giving this book 5 stars. I wish I had more stars to give. Ms. Setterfield is officially on my list of authors to follow, and I only pray she doesn’t disappoint after this first breakout novel.
SmokeDancer More than 1 year ago
This is an incredible book. The story keeps you intrigued and it has a great ending, which is very satisfying. I've read many books that were really good, right up to the end when the author just didn't seem to know how to finish. This is not one of them. I've read this book several times and enjoy it on new levels every time. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book. I thought it kept your interest but wrapped up nicely.
WriteReason More than 1 year ago
Excellent! From start to finish I never found a lull in the reading of this story, it kept my interest throughout. The storytelling was fluid, and charater development was what this story was all about--they grew on you. With all the twist and turns this story takes, and story telling within a story the author has done an excellent job of weaving it together. A delight to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When reading the numerous ratings for this book I was quite shocked at the ones that gave it an outstanding. I wonder if I read the same book? One reviewer wrote, 'I thought that narrators descriptions of her pain in losing a twin-sister reflected author's keen perceptions and research on the grief, loss, and bereavement process of siblings.' I could not disagree more. This aspect of the book was lacking in emotion and was painfully transparent. It barely even skimmed the surface with regards to loss and grief. While this reviewer was very eloquent and obviously has a large vocabulary used to impress us with her knowledge of writing it feels very contrived. However, I would have to agree with her when she says that she suggests reading this book without any expectations. Overall, I felt it to be a very poorly written novel.
JEdoubleS More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be quite enjoyable! It was a recommendation by my mother, who told me that the book starts off slow, but picks up pretty quickly. To be honest, I never thought it was slow for a minute! Some have mentioned the book as being "too wordy" or overly descriptive. I found that it was just right. I found that it is geared towards a female audience, but I believe anyone would enjoy this book! Good twists, nice plots, just enough dark subject matter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding! It kept you wanting more after each chapter. I only wish Diane Setterfield had written another book!
Arbutus More than 1 year ago
I picked this book because the plot seemed interesting however, the delivery was a little odd. I did not see some of the plot twists coming but at the same time a few of them seemed very far-fetched. The protaganist did not seem relatable and she had a irritating quality about her. I guess I just expected a more dynamic climax. Overall, I am glad I read it but wouldn't take a look at it for a second read. It took me a while to figure out exactly what time period this took place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an unusual story, even a little bizarre. It was impossible for me to relate to one of the characters, so I really had no interest in their fates. The story moves along at a fairly slow and methodical pace. It was just ok.