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The Thirteenth Tale [Hardcover]

Diane Setterfield
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (308 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Sep 2006

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; 1st edition, limited edition (6 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752875736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752875736
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 16.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (308 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 337,776 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
148 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Tale 6 Aug 2006
By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 500 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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45 of 50 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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4 of 4 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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51 of 58 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thirteenth Tale 29 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After two days of total absorbtion within the pages of this debut novel I decided to read the reviews first before I wrote mine, something I rarely do. I was amazed at the amount of negative comments as I have to say I loved it. It is a unique story, not conforming to the usual pattern of many books churned out today and for that I feel this author deserves much credit. It was engaging from page one and I quite literally could not put it down until I reached the end two days later. It was so atmospheric, thought provoking and for me, quite revealing. I am a mum of twins and thankfully, mine are happy and content unlike this disturbed pair in the novel. But I found some interesting similarities, traits if you like and I found it really quite enlightening. I feel praise should be given here, not critisism and I for one would love to see her write a second novel and be there in the que to buy it! Great stuff!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but not great
This is a story about two people, Vida Winter a famous but recessive author, Margaret Lea daughter of a bookshop owner and little known biographer, and also about Angelfield a... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Half Man, Half Book
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
Beautifully written and captivating story, with gentle mystery to solve. Exposes the strength and frailty of the human mind and the human ability to hide from the difficulties life... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I read this a good few years before it appeared on our television screens a few months back. Although a good programme, the book is 100 times better.
Published 11 days ago by Robyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Moves in mysterious ways
A whodunnit with several twists, I really enjoyed this story because it kept me guessing most of the way through. Read more
Published 12 days ago by GillianEliza
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story
I loved this book, I started to read it after I watched the television drama. Really good story kept me interested all the way through
Published 13 days ago by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Spooky goings on
Its Diane Setterfield; its an amazing plot line. It twists and turns and constantly surprises. A must for wet windy afternoons and there is naff all on the telly. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Helen Highwater
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat to read
I saw the BBC adaptation of this on telly over Christmas having never heard of it before, and although I enjoyed it a lot and found it stuck with me, i was left at a loose end. Read more
Published 19 days ago by I like Amazon
4.0 out of 5 stars A story undoing a secret family web
Good read. Needed a family tree to keep track of all the characters. A book I would recommend to a book club.
Published 22 days ago by Paula McEvoy
4.0 out of 5 stars thirteenth tale
Very good story had me guessing until the end which i didn't see coming wish i had the it when it was on tv.
Published 22 days ago by Sheila Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. Excellent buy
I loved this book! I saw the adaptation on TV at Christmas and looked everywhere for the book and was only able to find it on Amazon! Read more
Published 25 days ago by Laura Dyer
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