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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, a Book Review

By Edited Nov 5, 2014 3 6

Do You Like Spooky Novels? Here's One For You!

The Thirteenth Tale is a great novel to read at Halloween!

Full Review

Since I am someone who loved reading "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights," I found the novel, "The Thirteenth Tale," by Diane Setterfield to be a delightful addition to the genre of gothic novels.


The story begins when Margaret Lea, a lonely young female biographer, is invited to meet with the elderly author, Vida Winter, who is the most famous novelist in England. However, Ms. Winter has always carefully guarded the truth about her personal history.  In the past, each attempt by a journalist to write Ms. Winter's biography has been rewarded only with outlandish stories about her background.  After all, she defends herself, she IS a novelist.  Why shouldn't she make up stories about her own past?


Now, however, Ms. Winter is dying and she has asked Margaret to come see her for the purpose of writing her real biography.  Obviously, Margaret has misgivings. Will Vida Winter tell the truth this time?  Margaret becomes even more doubtful when Ms. Winter insists that Margaret let her tell her story in her own way.  She does not want to jump ahead, but prefers to tell the story from the very beginning … before she was even born! As Margaret listens to the strange family tale, she continues to wonder if what she is hearing can possibly be true.  Slowly, she investigates and begins to confirm some of the facts about the story, cautiously attempting to unravel the complicated tale.  Will she discover the truth about Ms. Winter before the great novelist dies?  Meanwhile, Margaret has a few private issues about her own family that she has to deal with.


The Thirteenth Tale is a great novel to read at Halloween!

The novel "The Thirteenth Tale" has a very scary feel to it!

If you enjoy stories containing family mysteries, secrets, hidden rooms, and tales of ghosts, this book will be perfect for you!"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield is the eerie story of a highly dysfunctional family in Yorkshire, England.Although the book is set in modern times, it evokes the mood of many 19th Century gothic novelists .In fact, the book often refers to how much the narrator, Margaret Lea, loves old novels.  It is a wonderful story for any modern day lover of old novels, ghost stories, and 19th Century romances.


The book deals with a few topics, such as incest and child abandonment, which will make some readers uncomfortable. If you suggest this book to your book club, or give it as a gift to another person, you may want to be sensitive to how the story might affect them. Obviously, this story might not be a good choice if someone you know has gone through a similar childhood trauma. Some people I know who read this book felt that some of the story was a bit unbelievable … but isn't that true of all good ghost stories?  In general, however, most people know their own taste in novels and whether this sounds like something that they would find enjoyable.

Use This Link to Order this Book From Amazon

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
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If you think you would enjoy this novel, you can order it from Amazon.

In Closing


This book is a delightful novel that was enjoyed by many members of my Southern California book club. It was complicated and difficult to predict, which made it even more interesting.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys English literature, and who has been wishing for a new Gothic novelist, like Diane Setterfield, to come along.



Sep 11, 2010 11:01pm
Sounds interesting. Maybe my book club will put it on the list for next year.
Thanks for sharing.
Sep 13, 2010 1:43pm
Thank you for a good book review, I didn't know about the Thirteenth Tale before I read your great article. You have made me want to read it, thank you!
Sep 18, 2010 7:51pm
Sounds very creative and suspenseful. Thanks for your take on it.
Apr 9, 2011 8:12pm
I just read this book and I loved it. But I had to keep looking it up on the Internet to check the plot. Who were the parents of the twins? Who was the ghost? and Did she save the wrong twin? I haven't read a book this good in ages. Thank you for your book review.
Apr 9, 2011 8:34pm
Thank you for your comment! I thought this was a well-written, creative novel, and really enjoyed reading it, too.
Nov 5, 2014 5:09pm
I'm so glad to hear that I am not the only one who enjoyed this novel. It was a really fun book to read!
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