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!



To mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë in 2016, Vintage is today publishing one novel by each of the famous Brontë sisters: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

Each book features the work of artist Sarah Gillespie. Her work beautifully and perfectly complements that of the Brontës across the centuries. Sarah writes of revealing “a world of dancing atoms and temporal fragility, of moths, blossom, hares and birds, whose cycles of life and death so often remain invisible to human eyes, hidden within the enormity of the landscape or the dark of night, such as the Brontë sisters knew.”

More work by this remarkable artist can be seen on her website

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”

—  Charlotte Brönte.

Charlotte Brontë’s tiny poem - 1829

- The Brontë sisters often wrote their works in a minuscule handwriting on whatever scraps of paper they could find. A magnifying glass is often required to read the texts. This early poem from a 13-year-old Charlotte was scrawled on a three-inch square paper. Scholars believe the miniature handwriting was a way for the sisters to hide their work from prying eyes and due to the expense of paper at that time. Others suggest it’s the scale that the sisters’ beloved toy soldiers would have written in, since the playthings were an integral part of their childhood fantasy world that inspired their earliest works. -


Great little manuscript from Charlotte Bronte

A few years ago this super charming manuscript written by one of the Bronte sisters was auctioned off. Before the talented sisters became known for their now classical novels, they made little handwritten magazines with stories for their own pleasure. Miraculously, this one from 1830 survived. It contains three short stories by Charlotte Bronte (d. 1855), who is best known as the author of Jane Eyre. The manuscript measures only 61x35 mm (half a credit card), but its nineteen pages contain a combined 4000 words. Now that’s a lot of scribbling! The tiny pages contain the seeds of big scenes her later novels would be famous for. One of the stories, for example, alludes to Jane Eyre through a scene where someone locks up his enemy in the attic, after which he starts to imagine how the prisoner sets the place on fire by burning the curtains. All in all this little art project shows that small books matter too - as do, admittedly, non-medieval manuscripts, the usual focus of this Tumblr.

Pic: Sotheby’s, where this “Young Men’s Magazine nr. 2” sold (in 2011) for $1.07 million, after a bidding frenzy (read it here). More information in this article.


Favorite Books:
by Charlotte Brontë

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”