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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 447,128 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

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 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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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 clahain on 21 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
There's an old saying that goes something like...when it is 3 p.m. in the rest of the world, it's 1938 in England. What I love about the modern Gothic novel is how one is never quite sure when the story takes place. There are clues--heroine Margaret Lea wears trousers on the train, "types" up interview notes made in longhand. We are told that a secondary character went away to war. But was it the First World War or the Second? From the moment the book opens the reader is on uncertain ground, ripe for tension that heightens with every chapter.

Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE took me back to the heyday of the modern Gothic. Victoria Holt. Mary Stewart. I thought of Stewart's chilling THORNYHOLD many times as I read about Margaret struggling to find grains of truth in the fantastical tale the eccentric authoress Vida Winter weaves for her day after day in the rambling old mansion at the edge of the Yorkshire moors. An academically-inclined introvert whose life revolves around her father's antiquarian bookshop, Margaret has been hired to write Winter's biography. But Winter is a storyteller through and through. A liar by trade and by inclination.

Margaret is ultra-sensitive about being lied to. When she was nine years old, she learned she had a twin who died at birth. The loss and its cover up has defined her life. Her twin is tangible to her. A ghost that follows her every moment of every day, visible in Margaret's own reflection in a window or pool of water. From her core, she knows she should turn down Winter's commission. And yet the obsessive reader in Margaret needs to learn the truth, to "read" through to the end of the dying woman's story.

Setterfield's prose is gorgeous.
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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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