Friday, April 8, 2011

Retro Friday Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie of Angieville and "focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc." 

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 2006
ISBN: 9780743298032
Source: Library

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel 

When the mysterious Vida Winter, a famous but secretive author, sends Margaret Lea an invitation to write her biography, Lea is astounded.  Not only is Miss Winter a recluse, but she is also famous for her wild stories about her past, none of which are true.  But she accepts and enters a world where Miss Winter brings to life the horrible and twisted past of her family's secrets.  Piece by piece, Lea is given a view of a terrible childhood filled with dread and remorse.  Can Lea trust what Miss Winter is telling her or is she being led astray as others have before her?

Things I Liked:
I loved the feel of the book - the creepy and twisted and weird story line and how it unraveled oh so slowly.  I adored the bookish elements of it - how it was about a writer and how books seemed to play such an integral part of the story.  It felt a lot like some of my favorite classic books - Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca - with its Gothic feel and spooky, disturbing mystery.  It also kept reminding me of a Dickens novel with all the different characters whose lives are intertwined in unknown ways.  Definitely worth all of the time it takes to read and all of the praise people have given it (why ever didn't I read it sooner).  The characters are so interesting and you simply  have to know what they will do next.  And that ending really took me by surprise!

Things I Didn't Like:
I admit I was a bit tired of Miss Winters' hidden and oblique statements by the end.  I just wanted her to get it out.  Perhaps that is how the reader is supposed to feel, though.  Also, like some Gothic novels, the plot can be a little ridiculous and unbelievable at times.  That's part of their charm for me!  It definitely didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

s-factor: !@
some, but not too many

mrg-factor: X
a very short section and some scattered references, but nothing explicit

v-factor: ->->
more of disturbing stuff than downright violence

Overall rating: *****

I've seen varying opinions on this one. What's yours?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. I loved this book. I always recommend it to "bookish" people--English teachers and such, and they usually like it!

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I love this book! It really got me hooked on Gothic fiction. She's writing a second book and I hope it lives up to the awesomeness of The Thirteenth Tale.

  3. Annette, I'm just sorry it took me so long to read it :)

    Small, ooh I didn't know she was writing something else! I'm on board.

  4. I really liked this book. I love the author's descriptions and words. Wish there was something else to read by her! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. It is kind of a bummer she hasn't published more books. Glad you enjoyed it though.


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