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The Thirteenth Tale Hardcover – 6 Sep 2006

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Hardcover, 6 Sep 2006
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; 1st edition, limited edition (6 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752875736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752875736
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425,204 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))

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

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

152 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Aug. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Scarlett James on 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. K. Harrison on 15 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was drawn to "The Thirteenth Tale" by its promise of its Gothic undertones, "Jane Eyre" and "Rebecca", having a soft spot for books which feature family secrets, possibly haunted houses and the like.

The book starts quite promisingly and I have to admit that, at first, I found it very entertaining, if rather unrealistic. However, as the work progressed, this unrealism became more and more irritating to me. Obviously, this type of novel is not always set in complete reality: sometimes we have to have a suspension of disbelief in order to like a particular work (the aforementioned "Rebecca" does contain a number of plot holes but I was prepared to overlook these as I was finding other aspects of the novel so enjoyable). However, the novel's shortcomings gradually took over and I became less and less enamoured of the story. Vida Winter is a best-selling writer, but we know very little about her actual writing career or her books: the narrator "suddenly" has the answers to all the questions cropping up in the story which have been hidden for decades: the characters themselves do not have any substance to them, and have a habit of disappearing on a regular basis. The whole novel seems set in a kind of NeverNever Land which operates on its own rules.

I also found the habit of referring to "Jane Eyre" and similar works rather annoying. The author often picks these out of the library, and we are presumably meant to find these references forming a parallel to the story here: however, "Jane Eyre" has far more power and skill involved, and I find it rather pretentious for the writer to imply that her work is anything approaching that of Charlotte Bronte's.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bluecashmere. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
This book was a Christmas present. I knew nothing of the novel or its author. It turned out to be a totally enthralling read. It is a story about storytelling and much more, and between its covers there are a number of stories told from very different perspectives and situations. All are engrossing. The tales are interwoven with subtlety and each is alive with its own distinctive drama. Margaret Lea, the successful author Vida Winter’s chosen biographer, remains for the most part in the shadows, yet it is her story that absorbs all the others and she who holds the reader’s attention most powerfully.

The roots of the book lie in the great nineteenth century English novels – the heyday of the form. Diane Setterfield makes no attempt to deny this. Indeed she constantly points us back to her sources: the Brontes, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins and Henry James pre-eminently. Anyone familiar with “Jane Eyre” and/or “The Turn of the Screw” will have little difficulty in finding connections. Yet the story is not in the least plagiaristic. Rather its allusions to some of the greatest novels enrich its power and meaning. Clearly Diane Setterfield has, herself, been nourished by many of these outstanding novels. Her own writing has the depth and literacy, the sensitivity to language and its resources that characterises these writers. “Reading can be dangerous”, but only when it can strike at the heart of us.

It is a novel that works at different levels. A number of reviews point to interesting points and thoughts thrown up. It is also, I think, a book that teases the reader at every turn. We need to be as alert as Margaret to sense the undercurrents. The “Reading Group Notes” seem to me redundant at best and an attempt to reduce the novel to something far less substantial and rewarding than it is – a densely woven maze into which most pleasurably to lose ourselves.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wakely on 14 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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