Ryan's Reviews > The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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Nov 06, 2011

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bookshelves: fic-mystery
Read in December, 2008

***1/2

The Thirteenth Tale stars a withdrawn young bookseller named Margaret, whose defining passion is Victorian-era novels. She receives an unexpected invitation from Vida Winters, an extremely popular but reclusive novelist, to hear and chronicle the author's biography, which has never been made known to anyone else. Of course, Miss Winters has some secrets...

The Thirteen Tales resembles a (mildly) darker version of those same Victorian novels, written in a similar style, peopled with eccentric characters from a secluded English estate, and full of gothic twists and turns. I can't say that this novel, in sum, really captivated me, but it is skillfully plotted, each character and event part of an elaborate jigsaw that comes neatly together in the final pages. You may find yourself doing some rereading after a certain key twist casts a new light on preceding events. The characters are well-drawn, if a little anachronistic (then again, no identifiable year, or even decade, is attached to any occurrence), and the story didn't outstay my willingness to be involved in an homage to a genre that's not my usual cup of tea.
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