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02 December, 2011
Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
When amateur biographer Margaret Lea receives a letter from reclusive author Vida Winter offering her a job she is stumped as to why she has been chosen. A lover of nineteenth century literature, Margret has never even read one of the contemporary author’s books. However, when Margaret picks up one of the authors well loved books she finds herself drawn into its prose. The book , one that she has found tucked safely in the safe in her father’s rare and antique book store, is a rare copy titled Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. This is a collection of short stories by the author that is missing a tale, only having twelve tales rather than the thirteen proclaimed in the title. A fact that causes the early editions to be recalled from bookshops. Leaving readers worldwide to speculate ‘What is the thirteenth tale?
Margaret travels to Vita Winter’s home and finds the woman ill, and facing death. She wants to tell someone the tale of her life before she became Vita Winter the author. Margaret who has her own secret from birth finds herself drawn to parallels in Vita’s story to her own life. As the story unfolds, Margaret finds herself drawn into the history of the Angelfield family. From the beautiful Isabelle, her feral twin daughters Emmaline and Adeline, a ghost, and the governess who comes into the house and changes everything for the girls, Margaret finds the details as gothic and strange as those of her well loved Jane Eyre. But as the tale unfolds, and Margaret researches the facts shared with her, she begins to wonder. What are these ghosts that torment Vita Winters? What happened the night of the fire that disfigured her hand? How did Adeline Angelfield become transformed from a feral and violent girl to the Well loved literary figure of Vita Winter?
I found this story engrossing, and finished it in several days. The mystery of Vita Winter’s past drew me in. I’m extremely glad that I stumbled across it in my TBR pile.