The Thirteenth Tale

Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
406 pages, published September 2006
Genre: Fiction, Gothic, Mystery, fantasy
Source: I purchased this book myself

I finished this book during the Bout of Books challenge!
Margaret Lea is a biographer who returns to her apartment above her father's bookshop one evening. On the stairs to her apartment, she finds a handwritten letter from one of Britain's most loved novelists, Vida Winter. Winter is seriously ill and wants to tell her life story before she dies--and wants Margaret to be the one to write it. Having never read Winter's novels, Margaret reads her father's copy of Winter's Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, only to discover it contains just twelve stories. Interested, Margaret agrees to meet with Vida, and learns her dark family secrets of her childhood.  Both Margaret and Vida are forced to confront their troubled past.

One of the main reasons I liked this book was because it was a book about books and writing--clearly something I enjoy. I loved this quote, taken from a part in the book where Margaret is exploring Vida Winter's personal library:

"What better way to get to know someone than through their choice and treatment of books?"

I don't normally read a lot of Gothic and fantasy books, and perhaps that's why I didn't fall in love with the book in quite the same way many others did. However, I did enjoy the story, and it was beautifully written in a way that kept me guessing until the very end.  I enjoyed the characters, and  the "ghost story" feel to the book.

Overall, I liked this book but didn't LOVE it like I'd been expecting. I don't regret reading it, but I'm not jumping up and down about it either. After all the great reviews I'd heard from friends and seen online, I just felt a little underwhelmed.  However, if you love a good gothic mystery, you'll probably love this book!

Overall rating for "The Thirteenth Tale": B

Are there any books you've eagerly anticipated reading but didn't feel excited about once you read it?

Happy Reading!


  1. I really haven't read much gothic lit, but it's books like this one that make me think I would love it if I could get past the language barrier. Either that, or I should look for more modern gothic like this one, so I'm not struggling to wade through that 18th century prose.

    1. It's definitely worth giving it a try! It certainly wasn't a bad book--just not my favorite genre! And like you said, this one was more modern so the writing style is easy to read.

  2. Glad to see you enjoyed this book enough. I never added it to my list, simply for the same reasons you didn't love it - I just don't think it's my cup of tea.

    1. I'm glad I read it, as I rarely regret reading a book, but it definitely wasn't a favorite!


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