7. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. 406p. Published September 2006 / October 2007 (TP).
I picked up a copy of this because, frankly, it was everywhere. Turned out it was well worth it. Setterfield’s flowing prose paint a marvelous story to pull at the heart of every book-lover. Add a dash of intrigue and a pinch of romance, and The Thirteenth Tale takes you on a marvelous trip through the history of an overly eccentric English family.
Margaret Lea is the daughter of a rare-books vendor. She’s spent her entire life plundering the treasures of his store, devouring classics as if they were the sweetest ambrosia. She herself is not short on accomplishment, having researched and published a few biographies on the long dead. You see, modern literature holds nothing for Margaret. At least not until she finds a strange book hidden away by her father. This tome, entitled The Thirteen Tales, is the first work of world renowned author Vida Winter, and retells classic children’s tales in a new, morbidly fascinating way. But there is a mystery here – The Thirteen Tales only contains twelve. Where is the 13th tale? Turns out this copy is the rarest of finds – the last remaining of the original mis-published title. You see, Winter never published the thirteenth tale, leaving the world to twist in the wind. Furthermore, no one knows anything about Winter – it was as if she suddenly popped into the world a literary genius.
Yet a shocking summons from none other than Miss Winter herself draws Margaret closer than any before her have come. Winter, feeling her death is imminent, requests Margaret join her at her secluded manor and write her biography. And not just any biography – for someone has written one of those almost every year – but her real life story.
The Thirteenth Tale is the story of Ms. Winter’s past. It is the story of her family – her philandering mother, possessive grandfather and uncle, and eccentric twin sister. It is a story of twisted hearts and corrupted minds. It is the story of two inseparable sisters who were forcibly parted.
But this novel is also a tale of the present. Of Margaret and her own family’s dark secret. Of the investigation into the truth of Winter’s tale. In the consequences of the past. In the hope for the future.
Setterfield has authored a truly wonderful book. The Thirteenth Tale is a story reminiscent of the classics, yet modern in its telling. The colorful characters and captivating plot capture the reader in a world so like ours yet so captivatingly unique. Margaret is the personification of the reader in all of us and Winter the writer. This is a book I’d recommend to anyone with a passion for either.
Rating: 3 out of 5