The Thirteenth Tale The Thirteenth Tale discussion


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spoiler alert: was it adeline or emmeline?

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Cynthia Who do you think was burned in (but survived) the fire? And which twin died in the fire?


Leslie I'm pretty sure it was adeline!


Patricia It was Adeline who perished in the fire and was the dead person. The writer (who claimed to be Adeline) was actually the illegitimate child of Charlie (Isabelle's brother) and she assumed the identity of Adeline after the fire. She later changed her name to Vida Winter.


Lesley I am inclined to think that it was Adeline who survived the fire as well. Emmeline had always demonstrated more intelligence/understanding than Adeline did. She could communicate somewhat, though Adeline is described as only speaking to Emmeline in the "twin language". Recall that Hester had said that she felt that Emmeline could have a somewhat normal life, even marry someday. Adeline was described as "the girl in the mist", but we know that the girl in the mist was actually the story teller (the third sister), impersonating Adeline part of the time. Because others (the doctor, Mr. Lomax) already knew "Adeline" (the story teller) as the "normal" twin, she had to maintain that identity following the fire. So even though the surviving twin may have been Adeline, she was referred to as Emmeline by default, and did not have the mental capacity to indicate otherwise. Remember during the experiment where the twins were separated- Emmeline adapted and managed to adjust to not being with her twin, but Adeline completely shut down, and that is what happened with the twin who survived the fire also.

The scene where Margaret comes upon "Emmeline" digging in the garden puzzles me still. "Emmeline" speaks to her in gibberish, and when Margaret repeats what she thinks she said to Vida Winter, she seemed to understand it...yet we never find out what she actually said- did we? Margaret assumed that she had said "the dead go underground", however that was not confirmed or clarified by Vida Winter that I could find. I reread most of the book looking for it and couldn't find anything. That is one of the loose ends that I wish had been tied up.


Patricia Darn, I read this book a few years ago and I listened to it on audio about a month ago but still didn't understand it!


message 6: by Almeta (last edited Sep 24, 2014 04:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Almeta I believe it was Adeline who survived the fire.

She didn't seem to care when she was told that "the baby was saved from the fire", as she lay burnt and being prepared for ambulance transport.

I think Margaret even refers to the grave as "The grave of the person BELIEVED to be Emmeline". (I can't give you a direct quote because I have already returned to book to the library.)


Linda I have to agree, it was Adeline. Just because that would be the best twist of all. "Shadow" (Vida Winter) actually took care of Adeline for the rest of her life, not her love, Emmeline. Also, imagine Adeline knowing that she was responsible for the death of Emmeline, not the baby and not Shadow, when all she wanted was to have Emmeline all to herself. No, I have to beleive it was Adeline who survived.


Annette It was the joyful pyro - Adelline who emerged from the fire, poor sweet Emmeline died... Sad, but unavoidably obvious.

But what was she digging for in vida winter's garden?


Almeta Annette wrote: "It was the joyful pyro - Adelline who emerged from the fire, poor sweet Emmeline died... Sad, but unavoidably obvious.

But what was she digging for in vida winter's garden?"


Ahh, Now that, I never did figure out!


message 10: by Somdutta (last edited Jun 20, 2011 03:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Somdutta I think Adeline survived the fire, but Vida Winter wanted to save Emmeline. Had this been otherwise, i.e. Emmeline survived the fire, it would be serve as an explanation as what was being searched in the garden. Emmeline must be looking for her buried child, whom she may have believed to be dead. But if Adeline survived the fire, then really what was she digging in the garden?


Lesley My guess is that she was digging for Emmeline. If Margaret interpreted what she said correctly, "the dead go underground", then that would make sense.


Almeta Lesley wrote: "My guess is that she was digging for Emmeline. If Margaret interpreted what she said correctly, "the dead go underground", then that would make sense."

My immediate thought on that is that no one would be buried in Vida's garden, they would be at the old mansion or graveyard. So digging for a grave doesn't make sense.

Then again, by that time Adeline was probably LOW on making sense.


Lesley Adeline never made sense- while Emmeline demonstrated some understanding, Adeline never did. Hester said at one time that she felt that Emmeline could eventually had a mostly normal life, even marry. She did not express that opinion of Adeline however. Adeline never demonstrated having a normal mental capacity. It's possible that she would not know the difference between Vida Winter's garden and her family home- all she knew was that her other half was missing and she was incomplete without her.

I am still not even certain that that is actually what Margaret sad she heard her say..the dead go underground. It was never actually confirmed that she was right about that. That is one of the unanswered questions I have about this book.


message 14: by Tori (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tori I've always thought it was Adeline who survived since the sister who survives pretty much goes almost catatonic after the fire. When the twins were separated by Hester and the doctor all those years ago, Emmeline was stil able to talk and play while Adeline wasn't able to function without her twin. Given that the surviving twin has the same not able to function reaction, that leads me to believe it's Adeline. I also think that Vida suspects this too, which is why she calls out "Oh, Emmeline!" when she begins to tell Margaret the story.

One thing I loved about this story was that there was never any way for you to know for sure which twin survived (even for Vida), making it even more gothic and mysterious.


Deborah This is what makes the book so interesting. We don't really know for sure and everyone who reads the book has their own theory. The book speaks to each of us. What a wonderful book for discussion!


Kristine Kucera I think Adeline survived; but, enjoyed the book enough that it actually is hard to speculate!


message 17: by Kimberley (last edited Apr 28, 2012 06:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kimberley Almeta wrote: "Lesley wrote: "My guess is that she was digging for Emmeline. If Margaret interpreted what she said correctly, "the dead go underground", then that would make sense."

My immediate thought on th..."


I don't think Adeline would have any way of knowing that she wasn't at Angelfield anymore. She just had some vague idea that the dead would be buried underground, so maybe she would find Emmeline underground. All through the book Emmeline is referred to as "retarded," but it's apparent Adeline is, as well, severely so. Also, Vida's gardens probably looked a lot like Angelfield's gardens, so that could have been confusing Adeline, as well.

What I want to know is WHY Vida was "in love" with Emmeline? That's her half sister! Yuck!


Lesley Kimberley, I wouldn't say that Vida was "in love" with Emmeline, just that she was very connected to her. Remember that Vida was sort of a non-entity for most of her life. She was dumped off at the estate and lived in hiding from everyone but the twins for years. Emmeline was one of the few people who actually connected with Vida, simple as she was. And, they were sisters. Being that Vida had no other family, she valued that, and that connection.


Kimberley It's hard for me to think of it that way. Neither twin was shown to have much personality, so I'm not sure how anyone would connect to one of them, even to gentle Emmeline. I feel that had I been in Vida's situation, I would have just wanted to get OUT of there.


Tammy Beaman I think it was Adeline who lived because at the beginning of the tale Vina says that her life ended the night of the fire. She loved Emmeline, so much that she would not look at Ambrose. I think that Vina wanted to take care of Emmeline, as her sister, because Emmeline could not take care of herself, and that took priority in her life. After all, she was trying to protect her from her sister, so it was a constant danger.

I also say it was Adeline because of the other reasons noted above, she did not respond when she was told that the baby was fine after being drug from the fire, and she was never right in the head, and went into Emmeline withdrawals right away. Had Emmeline lived I think she would have made a recovery of some sort after finding out that the baby was fine.


Manie @ Lesley.. I think "The dead go underground" meant that Adeline was looking for Emmeline's remains under the ground..find her other half, whom she loved rather creepily.


Virginia Scott Prowse When Vida Winters first brings Margaret into her home Margaret asks for 3 facts on which she can verify her story, Vida tells her about the fire at Angelfield. When she tells her about the fire she cries out "Oh, Emmeline" (on page 52) which leads the reader to believe that something happened to Emmeline in the fire. That is why the reader, for the first half of the book, assumes Emmeline is dead. When they meet the woman called Emmeline living in Vida's current home, we forget that Vida already told us that Emmeline died in the fire when she cried her name.

SOooo... Emmeline died in the fire, and the evil twin, Adeline, lives with Vida.


message 23: by Miki (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miki I think Adeline survived the fire and her twin died.


Holly Knott Virginia wrote: "When Vida Winters first brings Margaret into her home Margaret asks for 3 facts on which she can verify her story, Vida tells her about the fire at Angelfield. When she tells her about the fire sh..."

Oh! Very good point!


message 25: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Hewitt I have not read the book and only became aware of the author after seeing the gripping TV adaptation. I have been waiting fora book , Bellman and Black which caught my eye , to be reduced in the post christmas sales and had not connected the two.

I think that the surviving twin could be Emmeline-for a start she would have been in a dissociated state (after nearly having her head burnt of by her psychopathic sister!) and hence did not respond normally to the news of the baby's survival . Secondly , their were clearly some very dodgy genes floating around and childbirth/trauma could have precipitated a chronic psychotic state in the vulnerable Emmeline

Questions-answers please!
1.How come a body was not found in the burnt out room- it is very rare for a corpse to completely vaporise( sorry to be so grim)...perhaps this is just artistic licence and I should not be so pedantic
2. was the skeleton that was eventually found that of the girls father-Charles?
3 who was the character in shorts and a sun hat putting twiggs in a barrow -seen through the window by Hestor

Great story though-stays in the mind. Seemed like a cross between The turn of the screw , Jane Eyre , The Shadow in the wind


Rachel I read the book about two years ago and remembered it being that Adeline survived but was injured/traumatised by the fire and so was different in character. That was why Vida gave the baby away as his mother was dead and it wasn't safe to keep him with Adeline alive.

The TV adaptation was ok but tv/film rarely does justice to good books.


Kathryn 1. A body wasn't found as they weren't looking for one - they thought there were two girls and they had two live girls.
2. The skeleton was that of the twin that died, whichever one you want to go with. Missed because no one was looking for a body (out of site, out of mind)
3. This must have been Vida as a child - Hester knew something wasn't quite right but didn't know what


message 28: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Hewitt Oh right-thanks.But that all sounds rather unlikely-even a 1950s fire brigade would have had a bit of look around-especially at the initial source of the blaze. So who did find the charred remains?Oh well it wouldnt be such a great story if it were entirely logical
I agree with Rachel on the subject of film adaptations although having read the novel first I thought Joe Wright's Atonement ,for example , was excellent( but Ian Mc Ewan had a lot of input )


Kathryn Reading fiction does require suspension of disbelief. However, if I remember correctly besides mentioning after the war in the beginning (which war?)there is no definite description of the actual time period.

The remains were found by the crew who were there to demolish the remains of the house. When I read the book I pictured there being a lot less left, I'm not really sure why.

I think Atonement is an excellent adaptation, perhaps one of the best. I thought this was so-so. I love Olivia Coleman, but I didn't picture her in that roll. However, in hindsight, I can see this being a very challenging book to make into a movie that would truly do the book justice.


message 30: by Imogen (last edited Jan 05, 2014 09:30AM) (new)

Imogen Flowers I've only watched the recent TV adaptation of the book. I have an alternative theory.

I wondered if Vida is lying all along and she actually is Adeline (i.e. there was no shadow, just the twins). She lies to cover the fact she's responsible for the deaths of the Angelfield household and to create a heroic legacy in the memoirs Margaret will write. She despatches each member of the household because she can't bear any circumstance where Emmeline isn't completely dependent on her. For example, when the governess first arrives Adeline can't cope when Emmeline adapts to the new living arrangements. She therefore contrives to create a situation where Emmeline is completely reliant on her.

This means neither twin died in the fire. The bones that Margaret sees the police uncovering at the end belong to the uncle who killed himself in the wood.

As far as I can recall, this leaves one point unexplained, though: how the governess sees the vision of the twins when Adeline is locked up in the doctor's house.


Aquaruis Patricia wrote -It was Adeline who perished in the fire and was the dead person. The writer (who claimed to be Adeline) was actually the illegitimate child of Charlie (Isabelle's brother) and she assumed the identity of Adeline after the fire. She later changed her name to Vida Winter.
I agree


Sarah Gardiner I think it is Emmeline who died in the fire. When the twins were separated as children Adeline retreated into herself and stopped communicating - she couldn't exist without her twin and this is what happens again after the fire. From what i remember Vida fears she didn't save the right twin either and so tries not to think about it. When we first meant the 'other' twin digging in the dirt we are led to believe she is looking for the dead baby, but since we later learn the baby survived and Vida told the surviving twin she survived, it must mean she was digging to find someone else - who must be the dead twin buried in the fire. And this would also point to the surviving twin being Adeline since Emmeline would probably have been able to get over the events and move on (as she did as a child).


Joanne I tried to care, I didn't.


message 34: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Hewitt quite right Joanne-your pithy comment made me smile this morning as the prospect of another day at work presents itself.That's the whole point about reading fiction-a potential distraction from reality as one tries to work out what the hell someone else was writing about.... as we play at being detectives .Alternatively you conclude that it was a load of pretentious tosh and move on.Some books ,for a multitude of reasons , get under your skin-for me it was "Atonement"


Joanne Jonathan wrote: "quite right Joanne-your pithy comment made me smile this morning as the prospect of another day at work presents itself.That's the whole point about reading fiction-a potential distraction from rea..."
I remember "Atonement." I gave it one star, I didn't finish it.


message 36: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Hewitt 50 sheds of grey ?


Joanne Jonathan wrote: "50 sheds of grey ?"

I'm not even remotely tempted to read this. Last Christmas I had dinner at The Heathman in Portland. When the waitress bragged that the hotel was written about in "50 Shades" I felt like walking out.


message 38: by Viktorija (last edited Mar 06, 2014 07:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viktorija Well the movie Adeline is purported to have died in the Angelfield house fire, but the book I'm not too sure about. Vida loved Emmeline intensely and, although it was an unhealthy relationship, I couldn't help but love them both and want the best for them. I just wanted them to be happy. And I think that, with Vida being so disillusioned by getting her happily-ever-after with her, it was actually Emmeline who perished in the fire and Vida just carried on hoping it was Adeline who died. She didn't want to know which twin she ended up with and she couldn't anyway since 'Emmeline' was disfigured and pretty much became catatonic. The whole thing was just so sad and the way those girls grew up was horrendous ):


message 39: by Irene (last edited Mar 06, 2014 04:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Pity that the film doesn't have this ambiguity which certainly adds to the mysterious and tragic atmosphere... As for me, I think it was Adeline who survived.
By the way, I wonder what story Vida told Aurelius when he visited her pretending to be a reporter?..


Lika_k Of course, Emmeline died and Adeline survived.


message 41: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Watson I have to admit that right up until the last page, I thought Adeline was the surviving twin. However, I don't understand the reason for the seemingly throwaway comment by Doctor Clifton on the very last page about Emmeline's treasure box escaping the fire. Does this not suggest that it was Emmeline who came out of the house carrying her treasure box? Otherwise, I don't see the reason for this to be mentioned right at the very end.


message 42: by Saskya (last edited May 25, 2014 10:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Saskya When you think about it, it would have been easy to know which twin she saved just by looking at the dress either one was wearing.. Plus, Emmeline was chubbier..
Among other things, this confuses me: who was the ghostly appearance that attacked the doctor's wife with the violin ?


Viktorija Saskya wrote: "When you think about it, it would have been easy to know which twin she saved just by looking at the dress either one was wearing.. Plus, Emmeline was chubbier..
Among other things, this confuses m..."


Well remember, when Emmy got pregnant Adeline, who rarely ate anything before, suddenly started to have an appetite for *everything* and gained weight. Vida even said she couldn't tell them apart after that.

And the ghostly appearance was Adeline.


Saskya Viktorija wrote: "Saskya wrote: "When you think about it, it would have been easy to know which twin she saved just by looking at the dress either one was wearing.. Plus, Emmeline was chubbier..
Among other things,..."


I listened to audiobook since I couldn't find the kindl version at my library, and it seemed that a lot of informations are missing. There were no passage about Adeline eating more than usual, or Adeline/Emmeline digging in the garden :/ I am missing a lot of elements. Maybe I should buy the book.
But still, Vida should have been able to recognize the real Emmeline by the outfit,as I doubt they dressed alike.


Cassie Dillon "fate exacts a cruel revenge for happiness" (pg 27)
Vida loved Emmeline. Emmeline died in the fire (pg 52).

Fate's revenge was making Vida spend her life caring for the woman who killed John and started the fire that killed Emmeline.


Shubham Tori wrote: "I've always thought it was Adeline who survived since the sister who survives pretty much goes almost catatonic after the fire. When the twins were separated by Hester and the doctor all those yea..."

Completely agree..


message 47: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin I'm inclined to agree it was Adeline who survived as well. Given her catatonic state when we/Margaret saw her later on (granted, she was sick...) and her total lack of reaction when Vida told her the baby was saved.

Although maybe Adeline would have reacted with anger on hearing that and Emmeline was just in shock over the fire and loss of her twin. Hannah, you made a good point about the treasure box...I just about forgot about that since it was so briefly mentioned at the end.


message 48: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Padilla I believe that Adeline was always Adeline. However when Charlie's daughter came into the household and looked so much like the twins (now this is from my understanding of the book, not the movie), she either assumed the role of Adeline or the idiots of the household assumed she was Adeline, one or the other. Charlie's daughter was like her father and that is why she abused Emmeline so terribly, just like her father did of his sister, Isabelle. The real Adeline shrunk into the shadows and became the "ghost" so she could oversee what happened to the sister she loved dearly, Emmeline. She loved to hide in the library and that's where she developed her superior writing skills and love of books. The bones found in the house were Charlie's daughter's - we never did know her name. My theory would also explain why Hester saw the ghosts of the twins in the woods….it was actually Emmeline and Charlie's daughter playing together. That is why Adeline was standing right there in the house when Hester arrived back home. The Cinderella Story told at the end was about Charlie's daughter. I think Vida was jealous of her. I think Emmeline was Emmeline all along. She was burned in the fire and that's why part of her face was deformed. I thought it was kind of interesting that Hester and the doctor ended up together in the end.


message 49: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Kimberley wrote: "It's hard for me to think of it that way. Neither twin was shown to have much personality, so I'm not sure how anyone would connect to one of them, even to gentle Emmeline. I feel that had I been..."

Out of there to where though? When she was found she was tiny child, starving, frozen, filthy, pus ozone from her foot and with no idea who she was. She didn't even know her own name. To be taken in by this strange family with twin girls who look just like her, that's would have seemed like paradise!


message 50: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Viktorija wrote: "Saskya wrote: "When you think about it, it would have been easy to know which twin she saved just by looking at the dress either one was wearing.. Plus, Emmeline was chubbier..
Among other things,..."


The ghostly appearance wasn't Adeline, it was Isabelle the mother!

Also the fire was at night, presumably both sister were wearing some sort of standard young girl nightdress type thing maybe?


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