[Review] The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Title: The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction
Subject: Female Friendship, Family Secrets
Page: 456 pages
First Published: 2006

Margaret Lea is the daughter of an antiquarian and has lived among books all her life (“There were seven rooms in the shop, lined floor to ceiling with books, thousands of volume”). One night upon arriving home, a letter in a white envelope awaits her from one Miss Vida Winter, the reclusive and secretive authoress.

In her entire writing career, Miss Vida Winter was known to tell imaginary stories to journalists about her personal life, so when she summons Margaret to write her biography and promised to “tell the truth”, Margaret was quite skeptical. She writes about dead people and what’s more puzzling to her, “Why me?” Her curiosity is heightened when, during one sleepless night, she picks up Ms. Winter’s book and read it well into the night and discovered the mystery of the missing “Thirteenth Tale.”  

Margaret soon relents and travels to Yorkshire to learn about the dark secret involving the Angelfield House and generations of doomed families.

This story contains all the elements that I like in a book: dark family secrets, a “haunted” house, books about books, stories in stories. I had a slow start with this book, not because it was difficult to get into the story but the words are so well-written that I have to devour every single word slowly. And I love reading Margaret’s passionate musings about books as some of her thoughts mirrored mine.

But despite all that, I couldn’t say that I enjoy the book tremendously because at some point I was lost (bored at times) and I find that some of the characters are bizarre and repulsive. As guilty as I feel, I simply had to speed read and skip some of the paragraphs. I know that I am one of the few readers who did not enjoy this one, it came rather as a shock to me too. What went wrong for me, I could not really say. But I believe it’s entirely due to my own weakness.


La Toya said…
Oh that's too bad!! It sounds so promising! Thanks for this awesome review :)

Lah @ LazyGirl Reads
Trish said…
I really liked this book, but I can totally see your points. I had an issue with the introduction of the new character toward the end, especially when it is someone who ends up being fairly significant.
Lazy Girl: Yes, the book sounds so promising at first. I really liked the first quarter of the book but kinda went downhill for me after that

Trish: I feel guilty for not enjoying the book the way I should have especially when I read a lot of good reviews from other people