The Thirteenth Tale

You know those beautiful moments when you realize you’ve stumbled across an author you’ve never heard of who you instantly fall in love with? Well, that just happened to me this past week. I was dying for a new book to read so my husband graciously saved the day, offering to go to the library and get some books for me while I was at work. I needed my fix! I hurriedly googled top fiction books that were supposed to be excellent reads and found a title that piqued my interest. As I read the premise of the story, I fell even more intrigued with the book and had to know the secret. I texted my husband right away and asked him to get The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I was praying the library would have it. They always seem to be missing the books I actually want. Well, what do you know? To my utter delight, my husband messaged me back the most glorious words, “They have the book.” Life was balanced again.

The Thirteenth Tale is about a famous author named Vida Winter. She is a very secretive woman who consistently lies to the world about who she really is. For years she tells the journalists and interviewers who come knocking at her door crazy stories and tall tales about her life. No one can seem to get the real truth about who Vida really is. And something even more intriguing about Vida is that she wrote a book called The Thirteenth Tale, but there’s only twelve stories in it. Twelve stories in a book that’s supposed to have thirteen. Where’s the thirteenth tale?

As Vida ages, she realizes it’s time for someone to know the truth about her past. She calls on a young, basically unknown biographer, to come to her home so she can reveal her story to her. The young biographer is Margaret Lea, a girl troubled by her own past secret that her parents had kept hidden from her for several years.

When Margaret arrives at Vida’s home, she slowly becomes enraptured in Vida’s story of her true life. Not only that, she also realizes why Vida was such a bestselling and beloved author. Her ability to tell a story is mesmerizing, and Margaret soon becomes invested in all the character’s lives from Vida’s past. She dreams the story and feels it.

The characters that make up Vida’s past are very well-drawn characters and extremely interesting. There’s Charlie and Isabelle, siblings who do some pretty unethical things; there’s Adeline and Emmeline, twins who have the strangest connection to each other; there’s ghosts, devastation, heartache, tragedy, and deep, deep love. All of this is wrapped up in Vida Winter’s mysterious past. That past might just touch Margaret’s heart and change her life.

I know I’ve left a lot out, but I want you to be able to read it without me giving away any secrets. It needs to remain just as mysterious and unknown to you as it did to me.

But let’s talk about Diane Setterfield’s writing. Golly, this woman can write! She has to be on the top list of best writers. When I started the first page, I was hooked. Her words flow like water, melting the outside world from view. I literally blacked out from the world when reading this book. Nothing else existed but me and the pages. There’s a melody that carries her writing throughout the book. I read it with ease, enjoying every single word, taking in all of it as if it were chocolate. Just to whet your appetites a bit, here’s a small example of Diane’s writing from the book: “But now I really heard it. A single note first, its companions drowned in the rain that rapped at the window. It was nothing, I told myself, and prepared to go back to sleep. But then, in a lull in the rainstorm, three notes raised themselves above the water. The night was very thick. So black was the sky that only the sound of the rain allowed me to picture the garden. That percussion was the rain on the windows. The soft, random squalls were fresh rain on the lawn. The trickling sound was water coming down the gutters and into drains. Drip…drip…drip. Water falling from leaves to the ground. Behind all this, beneath it, between it, if I was not mad or dreaming, came the five notes. La la la la la (173).” 

This is just a small taste of Diane’s brilliant writing that sings its way through the mind. Reading this book was a lesson in how to write and do it right 😉 I could easily re-read this book just to soak in the gorgeous vocabulary of this fascinating author. Read this book and be filled with wonder.

Cited Source: Setterfield, Diane. The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel. New York: Atria, 2006. Print.


2 thoughts on “The Thirteenth Tale

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s