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Review: The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Fiction
Page Count: 408
Published by: Washington Square Press
Date Published: September 12, 2006
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Vida Winter is the most successful living author in England. She is heralded, beloved and often compared to Dickens, but no one knows who she is. For whenever she is asked, this natural born story teller simply spins another tale. She is a recluse, she is a mystery, and she is dying.

Margaret Lea is young, quiet, completely unknown biographer. Content in her mild existence she helps her father run their small, unprofitable bookshop. So she is completely bewildered when Ms. Winters personally asks her to come transcribes her true life story.

As Vida Winters tells her most epic story yet, the truth, painful secrets from both women’s pasts come to light through this chilling, completely absorbing modern day classic that has echoes of Daphne Du Maurier and Jane Eyre.


Let’s talk the review process, favourites & biases:

Why do I “review” books? Honestly I don’t consider myself a reviewer because I am not trying to convince you to read or not read any book. Rather I am just discussing, with myself, my thoughts on my reads. I feel the threads of the plot, the voices of the characters, the anger/love swirl of emotions churned up through the read cannot be quieted until I write down my thoughts.

And then, there they are. People may or may not read them. I might convince you or not to read something, and you most certainly will disagree with what I say. But I never consider calling myself a reviewer.

This becomes exceptionally difficult when I love a book. I mean, LOVE, a book. I love it, what more can I say to myself than that? But because I do purport to write about all that I read … I will attempt to write a few words here. But do know that The Thirteenth Tale is one of my all time favourite books and this review is 1000% biased.

Let’s Talk Characters, Genre, World:

My husband bought me The Thirteenth Tale 13 years ago when it was released and I remember the story sunk me in completely. In my mind I set a goal of re-reading past favourites in 2020 to see if they still stand true. So I listened to The Thirteenth Tale on audiobook.

I loved it more.

This is a character driven plot. This is a gothic fairytale. This is misty and spooky, and full of swirling clouds of fog, grande estates and slowly revealed mysteries. This is a natural born storyteller with a gift for words tediously and often over-achievingly describing worlds and emotions. Resulting in characters so bloody believable, worlds so ridiculously real … it’s hard to put the book down and reemerge into your regular life.

If you want to get lost in words, worlds, and characters … this will be your book.

Let’s Talk “Not For Everyone”:

If languorously descriptive writing bothers you, if you don’t enjoy character driven stories, if you want clearly defined right and wrong, and perfectly closed up endings … you probably won’t like this story.

But if you want a ghost story, mystery, and a book that will completely immerse you … you might find your next favourite book here.

Overall Thoughts:

This is one of my ultimate favourite reads and having reread it, it still stands as true. If not more so. The talent of Diane Setterfield and her ability to describe, to write vividly real characters and worlds is exceptional. Her love of stories, her love of books is so evident here and this is a book that will be beloved by those who love books. It was chilling and haunting and I found it truly hard to put down.

TBR Ranking: High

For Fans Of:


Written by Daphne du Maurier

Published by William Morrow & Company

You can find it here: Bookshop.org




Jane EyreJane Eyre

Written by Charlotte Bronte

Published by Penguin Classics

You can find it here: Bookshop.org




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