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The Thirteenth Tale

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  223,937 Ratings  ·  19,098 Reviews
Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The reque ...more
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Atria Books (first published 2006)
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Popular Answered Questions

Aileen The Angelfield story (so far as I've gotten to date) sounds like it could easily be from the 20s/30s, which would put Margaret's narrative in the…moreThe Angelfield story (so far as I've gotten to date) sounds like it could easily be from the 20s/30s, which would put Margaret's narrative in the 1980s/1990s.
That's when I'm placing it, anyway!(less)
Terri Wyatt The first time I "read" this book, it was the unabridged audio book. At that time, I had a ridiculous commute: 62 miles EACH WAY! So, I listened to a…moreThe first time I "read" this book, it was the unabridged audio book. At that time, I had a ridiculous commute: 62 miles EACH WAY! So, I listened to a LOT of audio books for those years. I must say that the audio version of The Thirteenth Tale is the best-produced audio book I've ever read. Two different actresses are used: one representing Margaret, which is the primary voice; and one to represent Vida Winter as she is telling her story to Margaret. The actresses selected -- and their portrayals -- are spot on! Even if you've read this book with your eyes, I would recommend listening to the audio book if you have the time. You will thoroughly enjoy every second!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kristina A
Jul 06, 2007 Kristina A rated it it was ok
Shelves: neo-victorian
Sigh. I really, really wanted to like this book. I heard good things about it, and it has many elements I usually love in a novel: a Victorian sensibility, questions of identity and sisterhood (as well as siblinghood generally), meta-commentary on writing, and a plain, quiet, somewhat chilly protagonist who prefers books to people. The protagonist, Margaret, grew up in a bookstore and learned to read using 19th century novels, and there are clear parallels in the story to Jane Eyre, Wuthering He ...more
Emily May
Aug 07, 2013 Emily May rated it it was amazing
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

I don't know if I've ever loved words so much.

Lots of people told me that this was a book I needed to read, but many of those people also warned me that I might find it slow. So I went into The Thirteenth Ta
...more
Lisa M.
Sep 13, 2007 Lisa M. rated it really liked it

"Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes–characters even–caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you"


This quote from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield sums up my experience with the book. It’s been a while since I’ve felt truly drawn in to a novel. Likely this is the result of my recent tendency toward s
...more
Navessa

"Tell me the truth."


These are the words that a young journalist speaks to Vida Winter in the beginning of this book. Vida is an author famous for spinning magical tales. In books, and about her life. Each time she releases a new story, she grants multiple interviews, in which every journalist asks her the story of her life, and leaves thinking that they, finally, after decades of deceptions, are the one she's told the truth to.

But she never does. Until now.

Out of the blue, she writes to an a
...more
Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

So here's my problem with gothic literature: it's so habitually grotesque that it's predictable.

If there's not incest, there's a crazy wife in the attic. If there's not a crazy wife in the attic, there's a murderous illegitimate son who's not right in the head. Or conjoined twins. Or a dying gypsy's curse. Or something equally unsettling.

So even if you guess the HEP Big Secret wrong, whatever it actually is isn't going to make a dent. B/c you've already imagined the worst
...more
Libby
Jul 20, 2008 Libby rated it did not like it
I know that most people like to work out to Gnarls Barkley or Metallica or what-have-you, but I find gym-based exercise so exceedingly boring that I require narrative to keep me going. Since my motor-coordination isn't sufficient enough to allow me to turn the pages of a magazine/book AND pump the pedals on an elliptical trainer, sometime last summer I turned to Audible to solve my problems. Now, what one requires from printed matter may not at all do for the recorded book, and in my case, it tu ...more
Rachel Burton
Oct 24, 2007 Rachel Burton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction, 2007
This has finally come out in paperback. This is that one that got an £800,000 advance and is meant to be the best book since sliced bread. To be honest I don't hold out a lot of hope....

On P. 138
I take it back. I have been sucked in straight away. Can barely put it down! Whiich is apt seeing as amonst other things it is the tale of books and their words sucking you in. It is also the tale of a dying writer and her reluctant biography, lost twins and the ghosts of the past. Like The House at Rive
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 20, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of SUSPENSE!
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Book Club
Amazing for a debut! While a homage to classic gothic novels no need to be a fan - pick it up if you’re into mysteries with plenty of psychological twists, ambiance and above all – suspense! Setterfield excels in the slow build, at stringing you along, feeding you morsels bit by tantalizing bit…almost toys with you until you grow impatient, at least I did. About 1/3 of the way in I reconciled myself to the fact that she insisted on setting her own pace and simply would not be rushed. That’s when ...more
Heather
Dec 29, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lindsay
Mar 28, 2017 Lindsay rated it it was ok
2 stars. I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. Unfortunately, I finished it with a sense of disappointment.

My interest wavered throughout the novel, going on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Unfortunately, there were more downs than ups.

The book started off with a bang! I was thrilled to have the feeling of settling into a well-written historical fiction/family drama/mystery, my absolute favourite genre combination. Sadly, this feeling was short-lived. After the first
...more
Debbie "DJ"
Jul 07, 2015 Debbie "DJ" rated it it was amazing
Here I am, looking at other reviews to figure out what genre this is. So, this is Gothic suspense? WOW! I was guessing mystery, but with so much atmosphere, it seeped into my bones! What an incredible book!

This was a 15 hour audio book, and due to life circumstances, I was not able to listen continuously. What I can say is that every time I listened, I was completely drawn into another world.

It is the story of a famous recluse writer, Vida Winters. She is an invalid now, but has one final tale
...more
Lindsey Rey
Dec 21, 2013 Lindsey Rey rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2015
[4.5 Stars]
This was an absolute gem!
Violet wells
I can’t remember why I bought this and it’s probably not fair that I rate it because at times I felt like I was reading a novel in a language I don’t understand. The best way I can think of describing it is Bronte fan fiction. At times it felt more like a product than a labour of love. The biggest problem for me was the question of how seriously I was supposed to take this novel. Just a bit of light-hearted fun with its constant smoking mirrors and playfully preposterous premises? But maybe ther ...more
Jean
The Thirteenth Tale is a gothic suspense novel from 2006 with echoes from several Victorian novels. The familiar device of a "story within a story" is employed, and sometimes it even contains another story. This story-telling tradition strongly reminds the reader of earlier classic tales. In fact the "rule of threes" goes throughout this book echoing its fairytale feel. There is the structure of the book itself, "Beginnings, Middles and Endings". There are three generations in the earlier sag ...more
Jamie
Nov 15, 2007 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: so many people
Recommended to Jamie by: good reads, I think
Oh to be lost in a book. That's really the reason I read, the reason I read more often than I write and so on. I have a favorite memory: it is me, at thirteen or fourteen, lying on a bedsheet I carried from the laundry room and spread out in the field across the street from my childhood home. It was spring, nearly too cool to be comfortable, but the grass was dry and very green and filled with tiny little pastel flowers, which are decidedly not "real" snow drops, but that's what I'd called them ...more
Lizzy
I hate not to finish reading a book I've started, so I went on and finished it fast. Sigh. I really wanted to like The Thirteenth Tale, for one I was reading with my friend Vessey. Besides that, there was a lot in the story for me to enjoy: an antiquarian bookstore; a lonely protagonist whose best friends are books, plus a secondary character who is a mysterious, isolated writer. And some nice passages, like:
"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you pri
...more
Margitte
Margaret Lea never imagined the outcome when she, as a devoted modern, bibiophile, living with her parents on top of their book store, wrote a biographical essay, The Fraternal Muse on the Landier brothers, for a hardback collection of essays on writing and the family in the nineteenth century. She was a diletante, talented amateur in the company of professional and academic writers.

A is for Austen, B is for Brontë, C is for Charles and D is for Dickens. That is how she learned to read and writ
...more
Michael
I got a lot of satisfaction from the dark mysteries in this old-fashioned tale, which makes homage to “Jane Eyre” and “The Woman in White.” It hooked me right from the beginning, where Margaret Lea is working in her father’s antiquarian bookstore in London and gets a letter from a famous reclusive writer, Vida Winter, inviting her to consider writing her biography. She balks because she has only written obscure biographies of obscure dead literary figures, but the letter intrigues her with its p ...more
Mary Beth
Feb 11, 2015 Mary Beth rated it it was amazing
Wow! I was really surprised how much I loved this book. There are a lot of mixed reviews and it seems to me that people either. Hated it or loved it and I was afraid that I was going to be one of those that hated it. I love the Gothic Suspense genre and this book definitely is a classic so this was not the case. I loved it more than I ever thought I would. I feel that those that hated it just do not like the gothic suspense genre.

The. Best adjective to describe this book would be mysterious. Vi
...more
Russell
Feb 18, 2008 Russell rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Vapid idiots who enjoy romance novels but hate sex
Dear god. I listened to this abortion of a story in the car last weekend. It was so awful that words cannot describe how idiotic it was. Contrived doesn't begin to describe it. Melodrama on top of melodrama. Secret family members. Ghosts. The main character fainting at the drop of a hat. Ugh, I wanted every last character to die screaming. If this is what women read (and apparently there are people who actually enjoyed this catastrophe, in fact it has a higher rating than some Cormac McCarthy no ...more
Jaya
DISCLAIMER : This is not a review. These are just some random thoughts that were skittering through my mind while I was reading this book.

WARNING: The following is filled with passages picked up from the book, which may not be of any interest to anyone but me. (Yes I might have ended up highlighting more than half of the book). So read at your own peril!

According to me, there are two kind of listeners of music. One who prefers lyrics of a song over its melody and rhythm; the second kind are th
...more
Nikoleta
Nov 15, 2014 Nikoleta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
«Γύρνα πίσω!» φώναξε. «Θα σου πω μία ιστορία, μια καταπληκτική ιστορία!»
Δε σταμάτησα.
«Μια φορά κι έναν καιρό υπήρχε ένα στοιχειωμένο σπίτι…»
Έφτασα στην πόρτα. Τα δάχτυλα μου τυλίχτηκαν στο πόμολο.
«Μια φορά κι έναν καιρό υπήρχε μια βιβλιοθήκη…»
Άνοιξα την πόρτα κι ετοιμαζόμουν για ένα βήμα στο κενό, όταν, με φωνή βραχνή από κάτι σαν φόβο, πρόφερε τα λόγια που με έκαναν να μαρμαρώσω.
«Μια φορά κι έναν καιρό ήταν δυο δίδυμα…»
σ. 59.

Έτσι ξεκίνησε τη διήγηση της η Βίντα Γουίντερ στην Μάργκαρετ. Κ δεν θα
...more
Rowena
Dec 23, 2011 Rowena rated it really liked it
“I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child.”

This seems to me the perfect book for booklovers. The above quote really resonated with me as I can definitely relate to it.

This is an interesting story, situated in the world of literature. Famous, reclusive author, Vida Win
...more
Cathrine ☯
Feb 27, 2015 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it
4.5 ★

Well summarized for me in Carol Birch's INDEPENDENT review: "The Thirteenth Tale is a cleverly plotted, beautifully written homage to the classic romantic* mystery novel. Rebecca and The Woman In White spring to mind, but especially Jane Eyre: a book that Setterfield weaves into the substance of the plot, and whose Gothic elements are skillfully reimagined in a peculiar tale of madness, murder, incest, and dark secrets.”
(*romantic defined here as a mysterious or fascinating quality or appe
...more
Julie
Apr 01, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic, re-read
This one of my favorite books. I don't re-read books very often. This is one of the few that would be one of the few that would make the list. This book has been reviewed about 3000 times, so I'm not going to add more to the pile. I will just stay I recommend this book to all book lovers no matter what genre you prefer. A+
Melissa
Oct 24, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it
Yes, this is a book for book-lovers! If I see that phrase in one more review of this one I think I'm going to scream! So just to be fun, I decided to LISTEN to this book on audio (because I'm a rebel like that... and I had severe morning sickness which rendered me unable to read 3 lines in a book without puking for over three months). It wasn't the 5 screaming stars that I was almost expecting from reading some of my friends reviews, but I did like it a lot.

Our story begins when Margaret Lea, a
...more
Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin
May 10, 2015 Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
www.melissa413readsalot.blogspot.com

This book was so good! I can't believe I have had this book in my stacks for a few years now! The story is so bizarre and sad. I loved it!

When Margaret is called upon by Vida Winter, a famous author, to come and write her biography she has no idea what she is in for with this woman.

Vida tells the story of her life as a child, but she is not who she seems. The twist ending threw me right off the bus. I didn't see that one coming at all, but I should have expe
...more
Whitaker
Dear Diary, today I heard the most wonderful story. We were at Diane Setterfield's place having tea, when she started telling us of this strange tale she had heard from her friend, Margaret Lea. Ms Lea had recently interviewed that celebrated authoress, Vida Winter. What a shiver of excitement we felt when we heard that! We've all read Ms Winter's books and to hear her story... we couldn't contain our excitement.

Well, my dearest and most private friend, you'll be pleased to know that Ms Lea's t
...more
Amalia Gavea
''We live like latecomers at the theatre; we must catch up as best we can, dividing the beginning from the shape of later events.''

The Thirteenth Tale had been ''waiting'' in my TBR list for almost two years, before I finally decided to start reading it. It proved to be a rare bibliophile's experience.

In the Gothic Literature group October Reading and in a recent discussion with a friend in Goodreads, I described Diane Setterfield's novel as foreboding. Each scene, each sentence is a creation
...more
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
2 1/2

What to say? This is one of those books which is hard for me to rate.

In a way it reminded me of The Monsters of Templeton in that I generally enjoyed the writing - the style and the atmosphere of it - but I never connected with the characters in a way which would make it all that much more enjoyable, or engaging, or tragic, or whatever.

In another way it reminded me of The Historian in that that book was a vampire book which was more about library research, and this was a purported "ghost st
...more
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“…a mistress of the craft of storytelling.”
The Guardian

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her
...more
More about Diane Setterfield...

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“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.” 1677 likes
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” 1491 likes
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