Rachel's Reviews > The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
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's review
Apr 23, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery, historical-fiction, read-2009, england, heroine, bought-used, gothic, literary, meta, suspense, female-author, female-author-heroine, dual-timelines, 1900s, bechdel-test-passed
Recommended for: people who love books

If you love Jane Eyre as much as I do, and as much as the author and main character of this book do, then you'll probably like The Thirteenth Tale. It is at once both an interesting story of its own and a love letter to books that book-lovers will see their own feelings reflected in.

It took me a little while to get to the point where I didn't want to put the book down. The first few chapters, while interesting and well written, came before the introduction of any real mystery that I wanted to find the answer to. At some point, however, I did find myself reluctant to stop reading, which is a feeling I wish every book invoked in me.

Frequently, I find I've discovered or understood things well before the characters in a story. Sometimes I don't mind this--sometimes that is clearly what the author intends--and sometimes I find it tedious.
(But as much as I enjoy the infrequent occasions when I am surprised, what is by far worse than knowing everything already is when I'm utterly surprised at revelations because the author has not laid out the clues properly!) In The Thirteenth Tale, I usually figured things out only pages before the narrator did. Even when the conclusion we both reached was incorrect, this shows that Diane Setterfield laid her clues very well indeed. They were neither obvious nor unfathomable, they were simply elements that, when put together with other elements, produced a reasonable answer.

Some people might complain that the references to Jane Eyre, along with other much-beloved 19th century novels, are not subtle enough or, because of some quibble with the writing style or quality or characterization, are too presumptuous. The thought of these people makes me happy that instead of nitpicking or being disappointed, I was simply able to deeply enjoy this novel.

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Reading Progress

April 23, 2008 – Shelved
July 13, 2008 – Shelved as: mystery
December 31, 2008 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 7, 2009 –
page 202
49.75% "Sad typo on page 173: the "d" was left out of the name "Ariadne"."
Started Reading
January 8, 2009 –
page 406
100.0% "I figured things out only a page or so before the character, so the author laid her clues well, except the romance, which I saw right at onc"
January 8, 2009 – Finished Reading
December 4, 2009 – Shelved as: read-2009
December 4, 2009 – Shelved as: england
December 4, 2009 – Shelved as: heroine
January 11, 2010 – Shelved as: bought-used
March 16, 2010 – Shelved as: gothic
March 16, 2010 – Shelved as: literary
March 16, 2010 – Shelved as: meta
March 16, 2010 – Shelved as: suspense
September 29, 2010 – Shelved as: female-author
September 29, 2010 – Shelved as: female-author-heroine
October 5, 2010 – Shelved as: dual-timelines
May 27, 2011 – Shelved as: 1900s
August 23, 2011 – Shelved as: bechdel-test-passed

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