by admin

January 2, 2023

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Thirteeth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

Rating 2/5

The Thirteenth Tale is the story of two women biographer and book worm Margaret Lea and world famous, reclusive author Vida Winter. Vida hires Margaret to write her official biography, an event the world has been waiting for as Vida is incredible secretive about her past, telling different tales to a variety of interviews. As her story unravels we learn about Angelfield the house she grew up in, Charlie and Isabelle and their strange and dangerous relationship, the wild twins Adeline and Emmeline, the Missus and the gardener John-the-dig. Margaret’s own story is interwoven into Vida’s memories.

It sounds the kind of story I should have loved but I just didn’t and I know I am in a minority. I found the plot quite dull and the characters on the whole didn’t capture my attention, although I would have liked to have known more about Isabelle. The main problem was the lack of a strong narrative voice and no character to really connect to and care about.

Both women are reserved, withdrawn characters who live more through books then in the real world but it was told in the first person so it felt strange for the main character to be so subdued. It reminded me of the House at Riverton but where as I felt a connection to Grace I felt none to Margaret.

There were some lovely quotes about books in it though. They jumped off the page at me and captured exactly how it feels to love reading, like this one;

“Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes – characters even – caught in the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you.”

The writing kept me going till the end but I could have done with less twist and more emotion.


  1. You aren’t the first person I have seen who didn’t enjoy this book, but you are right when you say that you are in the minority. Personally I loved this book with all it’s gothicness (is that even a word??) and twist and turns!

    Luckily there are more than enough books so that we don’t all have to like the same books.


  2. Marg – I am still so surprised that I didn’t like it, maybe I read it at the wrong time!


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