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The Thirteenth Tale
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MODERN CLASSICS/POPULAR READS > The Thirteenth Tale - *SPOILERS*

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Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1108 comments This is the post-read or during-read discussion. Spoilers are allowed, but please use spoiler tags as needed.

What did you think of the read? Would you read again or recommend? What surprised you the most or was it what you expected?


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 1013 comments Had to DNF. My review:

Nope. Too many triggers. Some lines are lovely, some are clever, but according to the bunches of reviews that I read, going on will not serve me well (understatement). I just cannot understand why ppl like reading dark stuff, stories about ugly stuff. Does this edify? Does it entertain? (Rhetorical questions... I really don't actually want to discuss.) I guess I have to accept the fact that I'm sensitive.


message 3: by Aqsa (new) - added it

Aqsa (her_747) | 31 comments Sorry it wasnt for you Cheryl. I'm going to be starting it soon.


Renee (elenarenee) I agree with Cheryl. I did finish the book but it was too dark for me to enjoy. I felt the book was written in too flowery a style. I don't care for poetry or poetic novels.


message 5: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I finished this one a bit early, and I almost put it down after the first few chapters. I found it very dark.

But I'm glad I finished. The overall story was wonderful.

I also think there IS evil in the world. While I generally don't prefer to read about it in fiction (there's enough in the news!), I do think one of the reasons we read fiction is to think more broadly about the world.

So for me, my question was "could this have actually happened?" and then "what would I do?" Both really hard questions.

I will say I think it's highly unlikely that three children could pose as just two children for a long term period of time - and the adults in the story were highly irresponsible. Just my 2 cents.


Nora Briggs (abriggman) | 405 comments Sue, I’m also happy I pushed myself to continue reading this book. I found the book to be slow in the beginning. Also, the two children are good examples of nature vs nurture because they lacked both due to a selfish father. Was it dark, yes...could three children pass as two, possibly if they have at least one common parent. Overall, subject matter made it difficult to read a few times, but it is a good book


message 7: by Kat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kat Khell | 12 comments Hello all! I am new to the group and this is my first discussion.

I tried very very hard to finish this book. But it is not drawing me in. I personally did not find it overly dark, but that could be because i could not sympathize with the characters.

The author has a wonderful gift for turning and constructing wonderful phrases and descriptive passages but i did not find it so with the creation of the characters. I can’t really put my finger on why, but every thing seemed to be covered in a layer of molasses.

Perhaps someone can suggest a chapter that they really enjoyed? Or that develops the story?

Maybe i am used to a certain type of story telling and i was expecting a sort of explosion, but all i was getting was a build up to no end.

Please forgive the long post.
Happy reading!


Nora Briggs (abriggman) | 405 comments Hi Kat, The Friendly Giant was one of the chapters I enjoyed.


Molly Anna (molly_anna) I loved "The Friendly Giant" chapter! But the "Fire" chapter really was exciting.
My question to all of you, though, is when do you think this was set? In my review, I mention it was my biggest problem with this book, but perhaps the lack of time period detail is meant to keep the story timeless? What are your thoughts?


JackieVB | 4 comments I listened to this book as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I don't mind a dark tale so I had no problem finishing it and would've liked it just as well had I read the printed book. I particularly like listening to audiobooks in the winter when I can do things around the house while listening. A couple of times I would stop what I was doing to sit still and listen, the reader(s) did a good job on this one.
Having just recently finished 'Rebecca' I couldn't help but think that this author was influenced by that book and I don't consider that a bad thing at all. It definitely had a Victorian sensibility about it in tone (although I know the time period was later) The house was also a main character in this one as was the house in Rebecca and two of the sisters (staying out of spoiler territory here) reminded me of Mrs. Danvers, in Rebecca, at least in some of their final actions.
I think the writing was beautiful and the characters were well developed, the only misgivings I had were that the pieces came together a little too neatly (maybe a few too many coincidences) but then again, that is also a trait of a Victorian type novel.


message 11: by Kat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kat Khell | 12 comments Thank you Anjanette for your chapter recommendation! It was rather more lively and I actually ended up reading several more chapters after. I think i will keep this book on the back burner for a while and read a few chapters here and there.

And in answer to the question posed by Molly Ann, i think it most definitely takes place in modern times. I think the lack of a date is to lend the story a bit more mystery, perhaps to allow the reader to better imagine a time frame they are more comfortable with.


Rachelnyc I guess I'm in the minority here but I loved this book and it grabbed me right from the beginning. I thought the writing was beautiful and I don't know what it says about me but I love dark and gritty novels.

Two things kept this from being a 5 star read for me. First is what JackieVB mentioned about it wrapping up a little too perfectly, although I appreciate that earlier in the book it mentions that Margaret likes old novels because of how they tie things up neatly at the end so it makes sense for it to be done here as well.

The main reason is that Margaret's story didn't captivate me nearly as much as Vida's did and I especially thought it was odd to have her end up with the doctor when there didn't appear to be any chemistry there other than her reading the novels he "prescribed".


message 13: by Nora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nora Briggs (abriggman) | 405 comments YW, Kat
Molly Anna, I believe this book takes place in modern times. I found myself imagining the three girls being born in the 20’s or 30’s.


Colin (mnhockeyplayer) | 121 comments While there are dark themes what I got out of it is that no matter what your life situation is everyone wants to feel "family" and have that, and for some it just takes longer to find it.

I have a friend I met in college whose dad murdered his mom while he was in high school.

He didn't really know "family" until college.


message 15: by Nico (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nico (nicoreads) | 28 comments I also struggled with how dark this story was. Maybe if I wasn't also reading it during a time of year that it's bleak outside and trying to get into the holiday cheer it would have been a bit easier. I normally don't mind a story with dark and/or gothic elements occasionally, but just struggled with this one more than I have others. Some elements of the story felt strangely rushed, and I agree with Rachelnyc that Margaret ending up with the doctor seemed forced?

And I guess I also found it a bit hard to swallow that three children could pose as two as Sue said. I know they were a rather isolated lot in general, which made it less difficult, but it seemed a stretch as time went on especially how things went down after the fire.

I did enjoy many elements and don't regret reading it, however. So I'm satisfied enough. Haha.


Kerri | 701 comments I am with Rachelnyc - I liked this book! It was a very quick read for me; it pulled me right in and I zoomed through. I thought the characters were strong for the most part while reading it, but after a day or two I found that they faded mainly to "ideas" or "images" with only a few names and personality quirks holding on. Interesting.

I do agree, I didn't care about Margaret's story near as much as Vida's. And I thought the part about her sister visiting her at the end was just...weird. Really weird. Her ending up with the doctor was fine, whatever, clean happy ending. I don't feel like Margaret's story had much catch, or wasn't fleshed out or anything.


message 17: by Oksana (last edited Dec 21, 2018 10:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oksana Alright, so the book is finished! It wasn't bad (4/5), but a good chunk of the book that is Margaret's story wasn't interesting to me. I found it rather jarring, to be honest. Yes, she is shown to be, for a lack of a better word, impressionable - e.g. in the "flashback" from her childhood she first looks into the mirror calmly, seeing herself, then, in a bit, after she finds out that she had a twin, something "clicks" and she knows what's been "staining her" and starts seeing "her twin" in the reflection. And up to her grown-up age it turns into, for the lack of a better word, psychosis with "I'm dying without her". And yes, as Kerri said, the last scene was weird. It may be a symbolic scene of "finding inner peace" or whatever, but it was weird nevertheless.

As for the big twist with one more girl, I caught a hint of it as soon as Charlie's actions after Isabelle's coupling with her future husband were addressed.

Among the things I didn't understand - why didn't the "ghost girl" understand whom she lead out of the fire? When the two others were fighting in the burning room, she seemed to know where Emmeline is (or did she?). Yes, the twins were in the same shape physically, but... were they dressed exactly the same? Maybe I somehow skipped over the mentioning of this fact, I don't know.


message 18: by Nora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nora Briggs (abriggman) | 405 comments Oksana, I agree and then began thinking Vida didn’t want to tell Margaret which girl survived. However, the irony would be Adeline surviving and Vida caring for her because she loved Emmeline. I couldn’t imagine Emmeline digging in the garden, she was more civilized.


message 19: by Jess (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jess Wellman (jmwellman) I'm pretty much in the same vein as a lot of you, however, I actually ended up generally enjoying this story.

I found it incredibly interesting and well written. Definitely not my typical type of book, however, I found myself really enjoying the prose and the arc of the story. It was a strange but enjoyable novel.

This is what I decided after some time figuring out why I didn't quite enjoy this as much as I wanted to. I found Margaret's story line to be incredibly dull and jarring whenever we went back into it. I was very interested in Miss Winter's story and really enjoyed that, but every time we came back to Margaret, I was just let down and typically not interested. I still loved the idea behind the book and the fact that I was so taken with about half of it is why I came out with overall enjoyment.

I also found the ending quite strange. Yes, it was wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it just didn't feel RIGHT. I don't know how else to explain it.

I ended up deciding to give this 3.5/5 stars. Overall, enjoyable..... just strange.


message 20: by Oksana (last edited Dec 22, 2018 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oksana Jessica wrote: "it just didn't feel RIGHT. I don't know how else to explain it"

I'm not sure if it's going to line up with your opinion, but I explained the "not right" feeling like this: the book seems to be hinting at magical realism at times. Only hinting though, because all of the "magic realism" elements end up being explained. A ghost! Wait, no, it's just a dirty mirror. A giant! Ah, my mistake, it's just a very tall guy. A ghost/poltergeist again! Nah, it's a child running around.
And because of it the ending with Margaret interacting with her ghostly sister feels wrong. If it's a metaphore of letting the past go, it looks weird, because there were metaphores like "hungry wolf" = "terminal illness", but they stayed metaphores - we saw no wolf in it's physical shape. So, seeing this sort of unexpected visualization is really offputting.


Gil-or (readingbooksinisrael) (meirathefirst) | 97 comments Kat wrote: "but every thing seemed to be covered in a layer of molasses ..."

'Covered in a layer of molasses'! Exactly! I wasn't sure how to explain it but you said the exact words.

I agree that it was somewhat dark but that for the most part didn't bother me except for the incest parts.

I don't know about the three girls living as two. It seems to me that as isolated as they are, and as quiet as the girls seem to be most of the time it could be, though it requires some suspension of disbelief.

But the ending with the doctor really irritated me. They had no chemistry as Rachelnyc said, and it just reminded me of why I hate romance all over again.

Also, the twin thing irritated me too. Twins don't have to be identical like the author implied when she said that in their raincoats those two siblings looked like twins, and there isn't really anything mysterious about them. Perhaps I wasn't made for Gothic novels.

It did have captivating moments, though. Especially at the second-to-last part when the 'mystery' was beginning to be revealed.

I rated it 2.5 stars in the end.


message 22: by Marta (last edited Jan 08, 2019 01:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marta Melnyk (morgensonnenschein) | 23 comments I finished this book a bit late, on 3rd of January. I just want to share shortly my opinion.
I'm also ok with dark stories. I tried to enjoyed her long descriptions of everything, but I hate the structure (read ending) of the book. I'm so angry about it! Really!
We read so much and sooo loooong to find out what hides the 13th tale and she retold this story in a few words! this is horrible.
I don't agree with Margaret, why she did not publish the story. I think Vida would prefer it. Now, when her name is still popular, when people care, but not in many years, when there will be a new popular modern author.
The whole book looks like the author did not plan it: long introduction, long middle and really short end. At least I felt it so. It looks a bit unnatural for me.

What I liked: language, how the book is written, moving story of Mrs. Love, the story of Margaret's sister is also interesting.. how they stayed "connected" and the fact that Margaret did not tell parents that she knows their secret. I think this is a smart decision.

I'm glad that I read this book.. for general development, but I would never read it again :)


Debbie I really enjoyed the book. I didn't figure out there were three girls until it was revealed. The language, her phrasing is so beautiful!


Jemma (captainjemima) I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to others. Some here have said it was too dark. I agree, it was dark, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The atmosphere seemed to fit with the winter, the darkness pervading so much of our days.

As for a time period, I agree that it was meant to be timeless. Obviously there were certain markers as the story based in the past had cars and telephones. Apart from that I'm not sure it matters.

I cared about Margaret's story a little. I didn't get the whole twin sister thing, really, but I felt awful for her that her mother wouldn't acknowledge her. I felt more absorbed by Vida Winter's story which was probably purposeful because Margaret was so absorbed!

I liked that there was a mystery even at the end, as to whether Emmeline or Adeline survived. I want to believe it was Emmeline and that the trauma of the fire and losing Adeline pushed her so far that she behaved strangely.

I liked the little scenes with Aurelius and that he discovered his family members.

The mystery itself was really enjoyable and towards the end I was reading faster and more often to try to find out the truth!

I don't have any problems with three children passing as two for such a long time. It was a big house, they didn't have people nosing into their business all the time, and I liked that seeing a child out of the corner of their eye (e.g. Hester) was just something to ignore rather than think it is a ghost. If there was no girl to look for then she couldn't be there.


Susanna | 4 comments Finally finished it. The book started slower than I wanted it, but I powered through it and I actually enjoyed most of it. I was not too happy with the way the book ended. I wanted more from the thirteen tale, since there was so much build up to it. Also I wanted to know more about the years between the fire and her decision to tell her story.


Betsy | 861 comments Mod
I was drawn in from the very beginning, finishing the book in a matter of days. I liked the style of writing; I understand, though, if some found it 'flowery'. I also like this type of book, sinister, dark, looking into the past.

I also enjoy the whole talking-about-the-importance-of-stories genre that doesn't add anything to the plot but makes you abstractly nod along in agreement.

I agree that the thirteenth tale was a let down as it was just a condensed autobiography of the story we were already reading (and knew most of the details to).

In all, I found it a great winter read, something to scare you but not to the extent that you can't carry on.


Trisha | 431 comments I read this at last! It seemed weird & the story felt quite muddled - some sections started in a way that left me wondering who was telling the story & which time it was. Perhaps that was the author’s way of maintaining some mystery, but I just found it irritating. Parts of the story were quite clever, but it wasn’t really for me & I’m unlikely to read more by this author.


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