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The Thirteenth Tale

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  187,797 ratings  ·  16,672 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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Tricia I personally would read the abridged version of a novel unless you were only looking for information on a report or review. There is too much lost in…moreI personally would read the abridged version of a novel unless you were only looking for information on a report or review. There is too much lost in the translation and in some cases you will lose the essence of the story.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kristina A
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
Lisa M.

"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
Emily May
“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
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 Hawes
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 River
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 14, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Mar 19, 2008 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
“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
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
Feb 18, 2008 Russell rated it 1 of 5 stars
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 mind-bendingly 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 hate. 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 Co ...more
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
Mary Beth
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
Melissa Martin

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
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by K. Osborn Sullivan for

This is a fascinating and rich Gothic mystery about a young Englishwoman who is hired to write the biography of a famous, dying author. The author has always kept her past a secret from her millions of fans, and the biographer is about to find out why. The young woman moves into the old author's home in the remote English countryside, and spends the ensuing weeks compiling details of the author's bizarre and disturbing early years. As the dying
What a quotable book:
"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."

I really enjoyed this book. It has a very Gothic feel to it, without the romance. I am sometimes suspicious of books that get such a buzz by word of mouth (Hello..."Water for Elephants" a
Instantly, I was transported. By story as well as by its telling. Any book lover will know within the first sentence or two, more times than not, and so I knew: treasure. In Diane Setterfield's "The Thirteenth Tale," the reader does not have to choose between intruiging storyline and strong writing. The book is built on both. It has the flavor of old classics, and the comparisons with the Bronte sisters and Daphne du Maurier fit well. Yet Setterfield also manages to achieve her own signature.

Branwen *Blaidd Drwg*
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.

Margaret Lea lives on the words of others. Working with her father in their bookshop, she interacts with the world through her love of books and the written word. When she receives notice from legendary and reclus
I wasn't really sure what to expect from "The Thirteenth Tale". I had been drawn to it for a few months by the cover and finally purchased a copy. I put off reading it for a while. I thought it might be good, but it also might be total crap. I was scared. Fortunately, it turned out to be very good. If I could give it 4-1/2 stars, I would.

Lately, a lot of authors have been writing books with a very old-fashioned tone and feel to them. This isn't a very effective approach for many writers. Howeve
«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
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile
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
Stacey (prettybooks)
The only thing I knew about The Thirteenth Tale was that it was about books and narrated by a booklover. This alone encouraged me to pick it up. It's described as historical fiction and although we're not told when the story takes place, there is a historical feel to it that's really similar to The Little Stranger or Jane Eyre . It's also described as a Gothic novel, which is unfamiliar to me but I found it easy to become absorbed in the narrative and the way it is told.

The Thirteenth Tale ma
Didn't expect that!

Initial Thoughts:
1. A mix of genre's and elements. From mystery, to gothic/horror, supernatural, and drama. Consistently moody, and dark. It was kind of like controlled chaos... that worked!
2. I could identify with Margaret. Her love for stories, discovering the truth, and finding closure to ones past.
3. Characters are mysterious, dark and disturbing. Winter's past was extraordinary, but managed to be grounded in reality.
4. Setterfield's writing is vivid. I was pulled into the
Vida Winter is a bestselling author—a modern day Charles Dickens—but her past is entirely unknown; she gives one interview per year and always lies. Then, out of the blue, she hires bookstore clerk and amateur biographer Margaret Lea to take down her life story. The majority of the novel comprises Winter's history as transcribed by Margaret, and Margaret's own life and investigations. The mood of the piece intentionally harkens back to various gothic novels, particularly Jane Eyre; the plot in ...more
Lynn G.
What kind of book is this? A mystery, certainly, for there is much that is not known that needs to be discovered. Any sleuths involved? Not a one. A ghost story? Yes, but there are no horrifying spectral images, nothing of the paranormal, just the past. A gothic tale? Most assuredly, but atypical. Atmospheric? Absolutely.

A dazzling book that is set in nearly perpetual gloom. The gloominess pervades almost every page of this story. It is, in short, an unnamed character that accompanies the reader
Jul 05, 2014 j rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: attic-dwelling first wives
Shelves: 2010, audiobooks, zzzz

Do you like Jane Eyre? Gothic settings? Family mysteries? Books in general?
If the answer is yes, then this is the book for you!

The Thirteenth Tale is the book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for years now, and I don’t even know why. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and as soon as I finished it I gave it to my Mom. It’s a slow paced book with a mystery so cleverly interwoven which resembles my favorite classics (such as Wuthering Heights). And, it can been seen from the plot and the writing styl
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Oct 26, 2009 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon (Giraffe Days) by: kiwiria
When Margaret Lea returns home one night to her flat above her father's antiquarian bookshop, she is surprised to find a letter addressed to her in a childlike, invalid's hand, but even more surprised by its contents.

The letter is from the English-language world's most famous fiction author, Miss Vida Winter, who has written fifty-six novels over fifty-six years, each one hugely popular. As to her own life, there are even more stories, none of them true. Now in her eighties, the time to tell the
Vida Winter, a famous aging author, asks Margaret Lea, an assistant in an antiquarian bookstore, to write her biography. Her story is a haunting Gothic tale with ghosts, gardens with secret passageways, a decaying country mansion, relatives with mental illness hidden away, and evil siblings. Death propels the story. The foggy Yorkshire moors add to the atmosphere. There are references to Jane Eyre and other classic Gothic tales woven throughout. As Vida's health deteriorates, Margaret wonders if ...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 about Diane Setterfield...
Bellman & Black The Princess and the Pea: A Very Short Tale Vinterhjerter

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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.” 1540 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.” 1270 likes
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