The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Setterfield’s “The Thirteenth Tale,” the reader does not have to choose between an intriguing storyline and great writing. The book is built on both. It has the flavor of old classics, and the comparisons with the Bronte sisters and Daphne du Maurier fit well. Yet Setterfield also manages to achieve her own signature.
Margaret Lea loves books more than people, and so the world of a quaint old bookshop of old leather tomes that one picks up only with gloved hands suits her just so. She lives in the world of words on paper, and she writes her own. An obscure biography she’d written becomes, then, what brings her out of the dusky shop and into the dusky world of Vida Winter. Vida Winter is a famed author, a reclusive artistic sort that the outside world can never quite capture. She won’t let it. What interviews she does are all yet more storytelling, each one elaborately contradicting any other. Yet when life nears its end, even those who enjoy living in the secrecy of elaborate, however colorful, lies, come to long for truth at last. Vida Winter calls young Margaret to her home to tell her the truth.
Why Margaret? Something in her first written biography gives her away. Even when writing factually about others, after all, every honest writer will tell you - there is, deep inside the words, their own truth. Vida Winter knows that, and she senses in the young woman’s work an understanding of the complexities of sibling relationships. Even, as chance would have it, and especially that of twins.
So the story unfolds, expertly, little by little and logically, building upon itself. Here is a twisted love, here is ugliness and beauty, here is human nature gone wild, and rivalry intertwined with a lifelong bond. We find tragedy and adultery, banishment and reunion. Expertly done. Setterfield holds firm to the end. Draw the blinds, start the fire, settle in for the read.
by guest reviewer Zinta
Read excerpts from the book here!