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The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane…

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Diane Setterfield

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,475705195 (4.01)4 / 937
Title:The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
Authors:Diane Setterfield
Info:Washington Square Press (2007), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

  1. 542
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (norabelle414, ladybug74, Contusions, Voracious_Reader)
    norabelle414: Both gothic novels, with a big ol' creepy house, and theme of hidden family secrets
    Voracious_Reader: Both beautiful, almost Gothic tales told through the eyes of precocious unusual young women.
  2. 471
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (ladybug74)
  3. 362
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (brightbel, coffee.is.yum, caflores)
  4. 212
    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (391)
  5. 170
    The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (starfishian)
  6. 141
    The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (library_gal, Becchanalia)
    Becchanalia: Pretty much the same plot, secrets, family ties and tragedy set in the ancestral home.
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    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (rstaedter)
  8. 101
    The Lace Reader: A Novel by Brunonia Barry (avisannschild)
  9. 70
    Affinity by Sarah Waters (Citizenjoyce)
    Citizenjoyce: The ambiance is the same. Both stories draw the reader in with promises of deeper mysteries to solve.
  10. 114
    Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (sruszala, lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Gothic tales of devoted twin sisters, love, and death.
  11. 60
    Florence and Giles by John Harding (shelfoflisa)
  12. 93
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (julie_e_meyer)
  13. 50
    The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (amyblue, kethonna)
  14. 1511
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (starfishian, rmjp518, kethonna, elizabeth.a.coates)
    elizabeth.a.coates: Both centre around books/literature, both are eloquently written, both have an element of mystery
  15. 62
    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (lahni)
  16. 63
    The secret garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  17. 30
    The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh (ForeignCircus)
  18. 41
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Becchanalia)
    Becchanalia: More creepy siblings and a misguided governess
  19. 30
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  20. 20
    A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore (fannyprice)

(see all 34 recommendations)


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English (667)  Spanish (7)  Swedish (4)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Norwegian (3)  German (3)  Finnish (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (701)
Showing 1-5 of 667 (next | show all)
Really unusual book. Very well written book for the most part. Personally I did have trouble recalling the attributes of the minor characters upon picking the book up. The other issue for me was the fire. (Spoiler alert) While certainly a pivotal part of the story the revelation that there were three rather than two girls in the house. All in all a very satisfying read. ( )
  skraft001 | May 12, 2015 |
After reading Bellman & Black I was quite fascinated by Dian Setterfield's mystic and gothic stories. I like how she draws out the characters. I like the unpredictable story line. Great suspense novel. Need to see if there is more. ( )
  PeterNZ | May 11, 2015 |
From the start, her language absolutely captivated me. This is the kind of book that takes you there... transports you. It's an artistic masterpiece. It is (almost) completely clean, as well, which is unusual. Not much sex (unless it's inferred, and disturbing). Hardly even any language. For the most part I could listen to it with the kids around and oddly, I noticed they quickly became drawn in as well. It's a book for book lovers. It has some very creepy and sinister happenings... a modern gothic that often refers to the classical gothic Jane Eyre, so I am assuming (never having read Jane Eyre) that there are a lot of parallels. One thing that bothered me a little was at one point in the story you are unsure what really happened. It is as with The Life of Pi(as far as having an ambiguous ending), for anyone who's ever read that. And the author is intentionally vague about it, leaving you to only assume that you are meant to interpret it however you want(it can only be one of two things). Yet it leaves me feeling frustrated. I think I know what really happened, and even worse, I am very, very sad about that ending. Either way, it is one of those books that would be ideal for some very interesting book club discussions. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
I will always love a story that can bring me to tears! ( )
  Jolynne | Apr 20, 2015 |
When I first started reading this book, I half thought about giving up before I got 50 pages in. It wasn't for lack of plot - it already was getting quite compelling - but yet...

It would be grossly unfair to say I thought the book was going to be no good, but it all felt a little bit cliched, like Setterfield had immersed herself in the great English classic thrillers, had attended a number of creative writing courses, and then had done her best to include all the usual elements of a great mystery. Crumbling old country house - tick. Antiquarian bookshop - tick. Mysterious figures - tick. Mad family member - tick. Evil child - tick.

But having stuck with it, I feel that in thinking like that I was doing Diane Setterfield a huge disservice. Yes, she does borrow heavily from [The Turn of the Screw], [Jane Eyre] and [Rebecca], to name but a few, but she doesn't hide from the fact, and in fact refers to them in her novel. It is so stereotypical in places as to be a little bit cringe-making, but mostly it's just an absolute page-turning rollicking great read. The plot was brilliant - a classic mystery puzzle that only fully unfolded towards the last few pages. Despite being fairly lengthy (456 pages), not once did Setterfield lose her grip on me as a reader, and had circumstances allowed I would have quite happily devoured it in sittings of 8 or 9 hours at a time.

4 stars - not original, and not my usual kind of book, but a highly entertaining read nonetheless. ( )
1 vote AlisonY | Apr 5, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 667 (next | show all)
A family saga with Gothic overtones, dark secrets, lost twins, a tragic fire, a missing manuscript and over-obvious nods to Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Woman in White, it reads like something a creative writing class might write as a committee, for the sole purpose of coming up with a novel that would suit a book group (and tellingly, there are "Reading Group Study Notes" at the back suggesting topics for discussion).
The Thirteenth Tale is not without fault. The gentle giant Aurelius is a stock character, and the ending is perhaps a little too concerned with tying up all loose ends. But it is a remarkable first novel, a book about the joy of books, a riveting multi-layered mystery that twists and turns, and weaves a quite magical spell for most of its length.
"The Thirteenth Tale" keeps us reading for its nimble cadences and atmospheric locales, as well as for its puzzles, the pieces of which, for the most part, fall into place just as we discover where the holes are. And yet, for all its successes -- and perhaps because of them -- on the whole the book feels unadventurous, content to rehash literary formulas rather than reimagine them.
A book that you wake in the middle of the night craving to get back to...Timeless, charming, a pure pleasure to read...The Thirteenth Tale is a book to savor a dozen times.
added by rainpebble | edit~The San Diego Union-Tribune

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diane Setterfieldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amato, BiancaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammer, HegeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Järnebrand, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moksunen, SalmeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tanner, JillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won't be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story. -Vida Winter, Tales of Change and Desperation
In memory

Ivy Dora and Fred Harold Morris

Corina Ethel and Ambrose Charles Setterfield
First words
It was November.
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 fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.
My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie. - Vida Winter
Tell me the truth.
Of course I loved books more than people. Of course I valued Jane Eye over the anonymous stranger with his hand on the lever. Of course all of Shakespeare was worth more than a human life. Of course. Unlike Miss Winter, I had been ashamed to say so.
… ten years of marriage is usually enough to cure marital affection …
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Book description
My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth itself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.

All children mythologize their birth...

So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

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When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.

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