The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield: A Review

Posted 9 September, 2007 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 13 Comments


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Date Finished: September 8, 2007
Pages: 406
Rating: 4.5/5

This one is a popular choice for several challenges, and I picked it for the Something About Me Challenge. After hearing great things, I was excited to take this one as my vacation book to Alaska. While I didn’t get much reading done on the trip, I was able to finish the rest of it during our 5 hour airport-wait and 5 hour plane ride home from Seattle yesterday.

I really enjoyed this book. The frame story is of Margaret Lea, an avid reader and amateur biographer, who is commissioned by the prolific novelist Vida Winter to write her biography. Margaret doesn’t quit understand Winter’s choice as she has never picked up one of her books (she prefers the Gothic classics), but she agrees to write Winter’s biography under a number of conditions. The frame story was OK–Margaret bothered me in a number of ways and I wanted to scream at her several times “Get over yourself!!” But I didn’t. :)

The story within the story, though, is what captured me. I really don’t know what to say about this story without giving anything away, but it is a dark story, haunting, gothic, tragic, and gripping. As Winter tells her tale, Margaret also begins to piece bits of the story together through her own means, and she, as I did, becomes enraptured in the ghostly tale. I loved that I couldn’t quite figure this one out until the moment of revelation. You know its there, something fishy, I turned every scenario over and over in my head, but… When the moment did come, I had to flip back and re-read entire passages just to see the puzzle pieces fit. Love it! And can I just say that I loved the references to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Willkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, etc etc. I would definitely recommend this one!

13 Responses to “The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield: A Review”

  1. This is in my pile (of course, there literally hundreds in my pile, so that isn’t saying much.)

    I see you’re reading Eat, Pray, Love. I can’t wait to see what you think of it. I absolutely LOVED it.

  2. Chris – Yes, really good! :)

    Lisa – Well, along with all the others that I’ve told you to read, make room for this one as well! I’ve kind of let Eat, Pray, Love fall to the wayside, but I’m going to read as much as I can tonight while hubby is doing school work. I’m also reading Reading Lolita in Tehran and want to get both finished by the end of the week…

  3. I read this one in Jan. and loved it. I’ve read many wonderful books this year but this one may be my favorite for the year still.

  4. *Petunia – I would say that this definitely falls into my top five of the year. I really enjoyed it and it was a little different than what I normally devour.

  5. I read that book last October and found it to be the perfect creepy read. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it too!

  6. *Stephanie – yes, if I hadn’t already selected it for Something About Me, I would have used it for RIP (although I had no idea what it was about when I started it). Thanks for coming by!

  7. *Court – Thanks for coming by. Yes, I’ve been thinking about buying it for my sister to pass it on. I love those kinds of books.