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The Thirteenth Tale [Paperback]

Diane Setterfield
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Oct 2007

Vida Winter, a bestselling yet reclusive novelist, has created many outlandish life histories for herself, all of them invention. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to biographer Margaret Lea - a woman with secrets of her own - is a summons.

Vida's tale is one of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family: the beautiful and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling, but as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction and she doesn't trust Vida's account.

As she begins her researches, two parallel stories unfold. Join Margaret as she begins her journey to the truth - hers, as well as Vida's.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (9 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743298039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743298032
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,467,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Beautifully written and highly intelligent. Blissful escapism for literate (and literary) females who love an old-fashioned story (THE TIMES)

A real treat...Like all the best first novels, this one seems to bulge with a lifetime's hoarded inspirations. Setterfield litters the book with references to nineteenth-century gothic literature and other meta-textual winks and nudges. The effect is of a lit-crit parlour game, which only adds to the fun (TIME OUT)

Guiltily enjoyable (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Whimsical, moving and consciously nostalgic, Diane Setterfield knows the limits of enchantment, even as she tries to break them (TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT)

Setterfield proves a mistress of the craft of storytelling and her musings about the pleasures of reading are beguiling (GUARDIAN)

Cleverly plotted, beautifully written homage to the classic romance mystery novel...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 INDEPENDENT)

A witty, entertaining and very satisfying read (THE SPECTATOR)

This bold, unusual debut is, as a Jane Austen character might have said, a vastly entertaining fiction (DAILY MAIL)

Make yourself a mug of cocoa and shut the curtains tight - a generous helping of gothic delight is about to be served (DAILY EXPRESS)

A remarkably compelling debut...This is an extraordinary, unusual and atmospheric story with a sense of timelessness about it. It is rare to be able to smell a book as well as read it, but this one is steeped in the aroma of old houses in remote places with strange faded furnishings and little natural light. It will appeal to anybody with a love of literature and a passion for the feel and smell of old books (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

Brilliantly written - recommended (EASY LIVING)

Compelling page-turner (WOMAN & HOME)

a page-turner of a Gothic mystery (SHE)

A dark mystery in the vein of Daphne du Maurier about family secrets and the potency of storytelling (THE LIST)

The fiction that I will be most enthusiastically recommending to friends is Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. Much hyped, this has lived up to expectations; it is like Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie and the Brontes all rolled into one, which has to be a good thing (BOOKSELLER)

If you don't mind drowning yourself in a captivating, beautifully written tale, go ahead and buy 'The Thirteenth Tale. You won't regret the purchase (LITPUNDIT.COM)

'I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book as much as I've enjoyed this one. (WWW.THEBOOKBAG.CO.UK)

An extraordinary story, full of twists and turns, spookiness and humour....As a debut novel, this is an impressive book and it is refreshing to read something that combines Gothic invention with realism so easily. For every fantastic plot twist there is a descriptive passage that catches the imagination completely. A wonderful book to settle down with on a Sunday afternoon: one that is both absorbing and fun (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)

The Thirteenth Tale is the sort of novel they don't write any more, which makes it all the more welcome. Add to this Setterfield's remarkable imagination coupled with her literate style and you have the makings of a modern classic (YORKSHIRE EVE POST)

Setterfield establishes, from the very first page, one of those narrative voices which you trust implicitly, warming to its calm understated authority (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Setterfield writes evocatively and assuredly (LITERARY REVIEW)

This is an excellent emotional mystery which I found harder to put down every night! (WOMAN'S OWN)

Setterfield is a master of pacing (THE SCOTSMAN)

Diane Setterfield has a light lyric touch (FINANCIAL TIMES)

Start reading this on the bus and, I swear, you won't only miss your stop, you might even lose the whole day (COSMOPOLITAN - Great Reads of 2006)

The moorland romances of the Brontes and Daphne du Maurier are never far away from our vision of a perfect Christmas read. Draw up a chair, then, for debut novelist Diane Setterfield. It's a windswept feast of abandoned babies, incestuous siblings and feral twins (THE INDEPENDENT (Review)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A compelling emotional mystery in the timeless vein of Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA, about family secrets and the magic of books and storytelling --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
151 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Tale 6 Aug 2006
By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
This is, quite simply, a rattling good yarn and that is not meant to sound derogatory in any way. One of those unputdownable books that take the reader over from the first page and leave you feeling bereft at the end. The story has everything, twins, a governess, house on a remote moor, a governess, warring siblings, abandoned baby, a fire - from this, it is clear to see that the author loves Jane Eyre (in fact quotes and references to this book abound) and, in the general decay and characteristics of its inmates, we are forcibly reminded of Wuthering Heights. There is a sneaky reference to Henry James The Turn of the Screw that sets your thoughts off at another tangent, and, in case you think this sounds all too gloomy and gothic, there are descriptions of the grounds and the gardener that make you think of The Secret Garden.

So, a terrific read and I defy anybody buying this book not to be plunged into its world and to love it as much as I have done. It is going to be HUGE
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and Gripping 9 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is her debut novel? I finished it and was left exhausted and crying. She conjures spells with her words like a sorceress. Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. I turned to my husband and said 'The BBC now need to get this and do an adaptation and show it over Xmas.' And what do you know? They are! Well done BBC. And well done Diane. Compelling.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant debut 14 Oct 2006
When a first novel is immediately (and enthusiastically) compared to the works of such literary luminaries as the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, a large dose of skepticism is in order. I read this book with a jaundiced eye, expecting to eventually uncover at least one unconvincing character, a plot twist that failed to surprise, or a passage less than vivid, unworthy of the masters.

I did not.

Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale carries the reader along like a turbulent river, with unexpected eddies and undertows you can't escape. The characters are absolutely true to the worlds of Dickens and Austen, but they're originals, not derivatives. They grieve and you do, they rejoice and you do, they die and you do- almost. The whole atmosphere of the book is powerful and sweeping, in the manner of Henry James or even Joseph Conrad. (Well, minus all those ships, of course.) If I had to pick one story that gave the same overall effect as Setterfield's book, I'd pick The Turn of the Screw, since the ghost element in Setterfield's book is equally shocking and unique, although James's classic novella lacks the grand span and scope of The Thirteenth Tale. Then again, Setterfield's characters could just as easily find a home in Dickens' dangerous London squalor or in the halls of a Bronte mansion, the air thick with secrets and heavy with troubled specters anxious to make themselves known.

Intriguing, daring and even downright heart pounding at times, The Thirteenth Tale might well give you nightmares at the end, but they'll be the best- and most original- nightmares you've ever had.

-Mark Wakely, author of An Audience for Einstein
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Setterfield mixes a hefty dose of 'Jane Eyre', sifts in a fair helping of 'Turn of The Screw', adds some Alain Fournier, a bit of atmosphere from 'Bleak House', deft touches from 'Rebecca' and a whisk of Angela Carter, and manages to serve up this tempting collation which is all itself, and I'm sure will have readers of future bookes by other authors saying 'this has touches of Setterfield'

Not being one who likes to read (or write) reviews which 'tell the story' - if you've read the book, you know the story anyway, and if you haven't - well, read the book itself, not the plot summary which might spoil the surprise of the book in store - I can only say that if the brooding, unreal yet real, almost dream landscape of the authors mentioned above delight you and left you longing for a similar fix, try Setterfield.

This is a beautiful, slow, poignant piece of writing and double journey - both the narrator's and her storyteller's.

Though the twists and turns of the plot were ahead of me every step of the way - and yet so RIGHT when they arrived, I actually found myself prepared to wait, and savour the smallness of each moment, rather than going faster and faster because I couldn't wait to find out 'what happened next'

To manage that juggle is splendid indeed.

My only disappointment is (and it's a big one......this is a FIRST novel, so I can't go rushing off to the pleasure of her previous canon of works. Damn, damn, damn.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Tale 16 Feb 2013
By Marie
Margaret Lea lives a quiet existence selling antique books with her father and writing the occasional biography to bring in a few extra pounds. Her literary tastes tend towards the obscure, dusty tomes that are often left behind on the shelves of their shop, and she has never read anything by the infamous bestselling contemporary novelist Vida Winter. Even though she isn't a fan, she has of course heard lots about the reclusive Miss Winter who is best known for her collection Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation - a source of much speculation in literary circles as it contains only twelve stories. So Margaret is surprised to say the least when Miss Winter contacts her to say that she is ready to tell the world her life story and wants Margaret to be the biographer. It seems that the thirteenth tale might be her own.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book and got well and truly swept away in the story of Vida Winter's unruly childhood growing up with her disordered family in a crumbling manor house. Fair enough, at times it borders on cliché and borrows heavily (SO heavily!) from Gothic classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I started playing a sort of game with myself where every time a ubiquitous Gothic image was mentioned I'd check it off on a list in my head. Decaying manor house? Check. Unhinged but beautiful young woman sent to asylum? Check. Creepy twins? Check. Wandering on the moors in bad weather? Bingo! There's even more that I can't mention for fear of spoilers, but you get the picture. But despite the extent to which Setterfield has tried to emulate her literary heroes, it is done in a gripping and intriguing way and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very strange yet highly absorbing
Published 3 days ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written.
Beautifully written. I watched the TV adaptation on BBC first and completely fell in love with the story. I ordered the book the moment the credits came up at the end. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Kayleigh Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Having enjoyed the TV adaptation, I wanted to read the book. So much better, more characters, explained the baby in more detail. Read more
Published 19 days ago by G D REMMINGTON
4.0 out of 5 stars Try out new author.
Not mad about this writer, but persevered, and liked it!
Published 20 days ago by Mrs. Shirley O. Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner
A book you will want to turn the TV off for. It is a mystery story with a recurrent ghostly presence. Beautifully written, excellent pace and totally absorbing.
Published 23 days ago by Mrs L Dymott
5.0 out of 5 stars It did not disappoint! The moment I finished it I wanted to ...
I saw this as a TV film and simply had to read the book. It did not disappoint! The moment I finished it I wanted to read it all over again. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Kim Leigh
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Tale
I love this book, its haunting and deeply interesting.
I had been waiting for a good book to grab my attention for a while, and considering I had just grabbed this from the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Better than TV film
Published 1 month ago by Mrs E A Greenfield
5.0 out of 5 stars This book (and the movie) are brilliant. I could not stop reading
This book (and the movie) are brilliant. I could not stop reading. Very absorbing and fascinating from beginning to end. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S.Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Tale
Saw the film and had to buy the book. A truly emotional story.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. V. Gifford
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